When you file a claim for Social Security disability benefits, you will be expected to provide statements regarding any symptoms of pain that you are experiencing. You will be asked about the location of pain, how long it lasts, what causes the pain, whether it can be effectively treated by medication, the frequency of pain, and other factors. You may also need to testify about your pain at a disability hearing before an administrative law judge.
A key issue in Social Security disability cases is whether the Social Security Administration will accept or reject your pain allegations. This article by Lowell Social Security disability benefits attorney Gerard Palma will address how the Social Security Administration handles allegations of pain when reviewing your claim for Social Security disability benefits.
Social Security regulations and rulings state that symptoms of pain must be considered when determining a person’s residual functional capacity (RFC). Your residual functional capacity is a summary of the physical and mental activities you could be expected to perform during a standard eight-hour workday. These activities include the ability to lift and carry weight, stand, walk, sit, reach, stoop, kneel, use your hands, understand and remember simple to complex instructions, concentrate on tasks, deal with changes in a work environment, and work with supervisors, coworkers, and the public. Your RFC is based on all the evidence in your disability case record. The residual functional capacity assessment is important because it will be used to decide whether you can perform your past work, and whether there is any other work present in significant numbers in the national economy that you can perform. Generally, if the Social Security Administration finds there are no jobs you can perform based on your RFC, then you will be found disabled and given Social Security disability benefits.
If you are alleging a high level of pain, then that will affect what activities you can perform in your RFC. For example, if you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, you may have frequent pain when doing tasks involving fine fingering. An inability to perform fine fingering during most of a workday may prevent you from performing your past work, and it could substantially reduce the number of jobs available in the national economy that you could perform. In addition, if your pain level affects your ability to perform mental tasks and deal with routine changes in a work environment, then the number of jobs you could perform would also be greatly reduced.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not give much weight to your allegations of pain unless 1) you have a diagnosed medical condition (a medically determinable impairment) which could reasonably be expected to produce pain, and (2) the intensity and frequency of your symptoms of pain are consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence in your case record.
Following is evidence in your case record which the Social Security Administration will consider when evaluating your statements regarding pain:
If the Social Security Administration decides to reject any of your statements regarding your symptoms of pain, it must give specific reasons explaining why it rejected your testimony. A new Social Security Ruling issued in March 2016, SSR 16-3p, cautions that the SSA cannot evaluate your credibility or truthfulness in the same manner as in adversarial court litigation. Rather, the adjudicator should concentrate on evidence in the case record which relates to an individual’s medically determinable impairment.
If you have been denied Social Security disability benefits, Lowell Social Security disability benefits attorney Gerard Palma can review and evaluate the denial. 888-295-4955.