Chronic pain can be the basis for a Social Security disability award for Colorado claimants

Colorado Social Security claimants who suffer from chronic pain know how disabling pain can be. Unfortunately, pain can also be a difficult thing to prove because it can be hard for doctors to measure and quantify pain. To establish chronic pain as the basis for a Social Security disability award we must prove that you suffer from a “medically determinable impairment.”

Showing the Social Security Administration a connection between pain and a medically determinable impairment

According to the Social Security regulations, one of the requirements for a disability award is to prove that you have a physical or mental impairment, and this proof must be accomplished through medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings. This means that it is not sufficient to explain through your testimony that your pain makes it impossible for you to work. We need to show the impairment through medical reports of signs and laboratory findings.

The difficulty is that pain cannot be directly observed by a doctor. In some situations a doctor can see manifestations of pain, such as flinching when a certain area is touched. This can provide a medical report of a sign that may satisfy the Social Security disability requirement. Other types of pain, like a migraine headache, depend on the doctor’s analysis and report of your symptoms and history to show a medically determinable impairment to the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration evaluates chronic pain with both objective and subjective evidence

For Social Security disability claims that are based primarily on chronic pain, the Social Security Administration considers both objective and subjective evidence of the pain.

The objective evidence consists of your medical records and reports. This evidence deals with the issues of whether or not you have a medically determinable impairment, and whether or not that impairment is able to cause the type and extent of pain that you are reporting.

The subjective evidence consists of your statements, and the statements of any witnesses you might have, about your symptoms and the problems that your pain causes you. This evidence deals with the issue of whether or not your pain is so extensive that it limits your residual functional capacity so much that you cannot work.

When it considers subjective evidence of your pain, the Social Security Administration evaluates your credibility

With a Social Security disability claim based on chronic pain the Social Security Administration needs to hear your subjective evidence about how your pain limits your ability to function. When it considers this type of subjective evidence, the Social Security Administration makes an additional determination about your credibility. That is, before it accepts your statements about how your pain prevents you from working, it considers whether or not you are believable in your statements about your pain.

This means that it is important for your testimony to be both truthful and accurate. You do not want to exaggerate your pain because this will undercut your credibility. On the other hand, you do not want to minimize your pain because you want the Social Security Administration to understand how your pain prevents you from working.

In its evaluation of your credibility, the Social Security Administration may consider some of these things:

  • Does your testimony match the medical signs and laboratory findings, the other statements that you may have made in other situations, and the other information in your file?
  • Does the objective medical evidence support the possibility of the type and intensity of pain that you claim?
  • Do you have a history of persistent attempts to find ways for relief from the pain?
  • Do you generally appear to be trustworthy and believable to the Social Security Administration judge or other Social Security Administration personnel who have talked to you?
  • Do the findings from other medical consultants or doctors conflict with your statements about your pain?

Get help from a Colorado Social Security Lawyer

The Social Security Administration rules are technical and complex, and proving a disability to the Social Security Administration that is primarily based on pain symptoms requires a careful and thorough record.

If you are not already represented by a Colorado Social Security disability attorney, contact us for an evaluation of your case.

You may email us or fill out the form at the top of this page.

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