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Pain and Your Social Security Disability Case

By R. M. Bottger

I am sure you think that nobody else can understand your pain, but the Social Security Administration is going to try. If you are applying for disability benefits for a condition that causes you pain, make sure the Social Security Administration gives you a Pain Questionnaire to fill out. The Social Security Administration looks at a number of factors when evaluating pain.

Pain is, of course, a very subjective thing. Different people experience pain in different ways. Some people talk about their pain; others bear it quietly. Words are never really adequate to describe pain to someone else. However, the Social Security Administration does try to evaluate how your pain limits your ability to function. The Social Security Administration will have you fill out a Pain Questionnaire to try to understand how your pain limits you.

The first thing the Social Security Administration will need is a description of your pain. Where is it located? How severe is it? Does it radiate or stay in one place? How much of the time are you in pain? Is the pain sharp, dull, stabbing, or something else?

The next thing the Social Security Administration will need to know is what you do to relieve the pain. Does rest alleviate the pain? Do you take pain medications? If so, what kind and how frequently? Do you use a TENS unit? Have you tried acupuncture? What else have you tried? How effective are these methods at relieving your pain? People with very serious pain that limits their ability to work generally seek out treatment. The Social Security Administration will want records of that treatment. People with serious, chronic pain generally take prescription medications. If your pain relief consists of taking aspirin four or five times per week, then the Social Security Administration is not going to think that your pain is very limiting.

The Social Security Administration will want to know the side effects of the pain medication that you are using, and how the pain medication limits your ability to function.

Finally, the Social Security Administration will want to know how your pain limits your daily activities. (See How Your Daily Activities Affect Your Disability Case.) How have your activities changed since you started having the pain? Once, when I was a disability determination specialist, I had a claimant who said he could not work due to severe pain due to osteoarthritis in his knees. When describing his daily activities, he said he walked five miles per day to keep his knees from getting stiff. Of course, there are lots of jobs that are a lot less physically demanding than a five-mile walk. His allegation of severe, debilitating pain was not very credible. In the end, his case was denied.

The Social Security Administration will look at all of these things when trying to decide how your pain limits your ability to work.

         

 

  

 

 

 


 
 

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