Testifying at Your Social Security Disability Hearing About Your Pain

Pain is probably the most common complaint my clients have concerning their inability to work. 

Physical pain can manifest itself in about any area of your body, and describing it to someone else is not always easy.

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Chances are when you find yourself at a Social Security disability hearing, you are going to need to explain your pain to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  This blog describes some of the more common questions I find that Judges ask about pain.

Where is the pain located?  During this portion of testimony, I find many of my clients want to point to where they are affected by pain with hand gestures.  It is important to remember your hearing is being recorded, and you will need to describe in more detail with words exactly where you feel pain. 

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For example, if you have back pain, you would need to say “it is in my lower back and radiates down my right leg” if that is the case.

What does the pain feel like?  Descriptive terms like dull, throbbing, stabbing, sharp, burning can usually give a Judge a good idea of what you are experiencing.  These are not the only words that can describe your pain, but it is important for you to be able to describe what you feel as you are the only one that knows exactly what you feel.

How often do you have the pain?  It is fine to say you experience pain all the time if that is the case, but if it is only when you perform certain activities, you should explain it in more detail to the Judge. 

This is where you may want to describe difficulties standing, walking, sitting, lifting, and performing daily activities.

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Can you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10 on an average day while on medications? 

This is where I believe my clients should be realistic.  Stating your pain is a 10 all the time even when it is not may cause you to lose credibility at your Social Security disability hearing. 

My experience with Judges is that if they believe you are exaggerating something, they may question every other answer you provide.  Being honest and consistent with your Judge can make it easier to find yourself with a favorable decision.

Is there anything you can do to lessen the pain?  If sitting, lying down, elevating your legs, or not lifting things helps ease your pain, then you should let the Judge know.  Some things you must do to alleviate pain may make you unable to compete in the job market. 

Also, there are specific rules the Social Security Administration follows based on your age, education, and prior work experience that may benefit you based on your reduced physical capacity.

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Above all, it is important to be honest about your pain at your Social Security disability appeals hearing.  One of the reasons you are afforded a hearing is so that you can give testimony.  While the SSA may have all your medical records, those records usually do not tell the whole story. 

The Judge does not see you daily, so it may be important to let him or her know how your pain and disability impacts your daily life. 

Please note that all cases are different, and this blog only contains my experiences representing thousands of clients.

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