Are you suffering from chronic pain that makes it very difficult to work? You may be thinking about applying for Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, it is very difficult to obtain benefits for chronic pain unless you can prove it is caused by a physical or mental impairment that is recognized by the SSA. You will need a variety of evidence, not just of your condition but how severe it is and the ways it affects your ability to work.
The Social Security Disability lawyers in Phoenix at our law firm understand how difficult it can be to obtain benefits, especially for a condition like chronic pain. Schedule a free, no obligation legal consultation today to find out if we can help you pursue disability compensation. You will not be charged for our services unless you receive compensation.
Qualifying for Disability Benefits
The SSA has a list of impairments that automatically qualify for benefits – if the applicant can prove he or she meets the criteria in the disability listing. The SSA does not consider chronic pain to be a disability, so there is no listing for it in the SSA's Blue Book.
Chronic pain, even if it is severe and disabling, does not qualify unless you can prove it is caused by a verifiable condition that lasts for at least 12 months. Some common examples of medical conditions that often cause chronic pain and are listed in the SSA Blue Book include:
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Back injuries
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic renal disease
- Somatoform disorders
- Neurological disorders
You will need various pieces of evidence to prove you have a verifiable condition that causes chronic pain, including lab tests, results of physical exams, and a diagnosis from one or more doctors. Being diagnosed with the same condition by multiple doctors will go a long way toward helping your claim be approved.
Residual Functional Capacity Assessment
If your disability does not meet all of the criteria of one of the listings in the SSA's Blue Book, you may still qualify for benefits. You must provide evidence proving your condition prevents you from working, either at your previous job or in a job in a different field. According to Section 416.945 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the SSA will assess your greatest functioning capacity to determine what work, if any, can be performed. This is also called a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment.
Federal court rulings have held that the SSA must evaluate the intensity, persistence and other effects of your pain on your ability to do basic work. For example, the SSA must consider the following factors:
- Location, frequency and intensity
- Factors that cause the pain to get worse
- Dosage and effectiveness of any medications you are taking for pain management
- Other treatment for pain management
- Other things you do to relieve pain, such as lying flat on your back
The SSA will assess how your pain limits your ability to perform a variety of work-related tasks, like standing, sitting, walking, or remembering information. However, just because you cannot perform one type of work, you may be able to do something else. For example, if you have pain in your leg that prevents you from doing work while standing, you might qualify for sedentary work. If the SSA determines there are no existing jobs you could perform because of your disability, you could be entitled to benefits.
Improving Your Credibility
When you apply for benefits, the SSA will evaluate your credibility. One of the most important factors related to your credibility is the things you are able to do every day, also known as activities of daily living. You must provide a list of things you are able to do, even though you are disabled, such as cooking, cleaning or taking care of your children.
You need to be honest with the SSA about your limitations. If you can still do some things but it takes three times as long, make sure to say that. The more normal your life appears to be, the less likely you are to be approved for benefits. However, do not try to play up your limitations because you may lose credibility.
Another factor affecting your credibility is whether you have sought medical treatment. The SSA will have a hard time believing you are in severe pain if you have not been seeking medical treatment on an ongoing basis. This includes meeting with doctors and things like yoga, meditation, supplements and acupuncture.