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How the SSA Evaluates Pain

October 8, 2021 Disability

Social Security disability benefits are intended for individuals who cannot work due to a qualifying medical condition. One of the key symptoms that keeps many disabled individuals from working is pain. But “pain” can be difficult to quantify; how do you prove that you are in pain, let alone prove that your pain is severe enough to prevent you from working? When evaluating pain, the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at all available evidence, including your own subjective assessments and objective medical evidence. If you are suffering extreme pain that prohibits you from working, a Baltimore disability lawyer may be able to help you get benefits.  

Evidence the SSA Evaluates

Generally, the SSA considers two types of evidence when evaluating whether you suffer pain and whether the extent of your pain is such that it prevents you from working: subjective evidence and objective medical evidence. 

Subjective Evidence

Subjective evidence is any evidence that you provide to the SSA regarding the pain you are experiencing. The most common form of subjective evidence is statements you provide to the SSA that describe the intensity and persistence of your symptoms and how they affect the activities of your daily life and your ability to work. You should try to be as descriptive as possible and include as much quantifiable information as possible (such as by including a disability journal). The SSA considers the following factors when evaluating subjective evidence of pain:

  • Your work record
  • Your daily activities
  • The location, duration, frequency, and intensity of your pain
  • Precipitating and aggravating factors
  • The type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medications you take or have taken to alleviate your pain
  • Treatments other than medication you receive or have received for relief of your pain
  • Any other measures you use or have used to relieve your pain
  • Other factors concerning your functional limitations and restrictions due to pain 

Any subjective evidence you present to the SSA should address these factors. While subjective evidence will be taken into consideration, it cannot alone establish eligibility for disability benefits

Objective Medical Evidence

Objective medical evidence is exactly what it sounds like — evidence from a medical professional that documents your condition. This includes signs and laboratory results but does not encompass symptoms, diagnoses, or medical opinions. When considering the sufficiency of medical evidence to document pain, the SSA will determine whether it establishes a “medically determinable impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce your symptoms, such as pain.” In other words, the symptoms you describe in your subjective evidence should be the type of symptoms that you would be expected to suffer based upon your diagnostic results. For example, if you complain of severe abdominal pain and cramping, a biopsy showing signs consistent with inflammatory bowel disease would bolster your claims. 

Contact a Baltimore Disability Lawyer for More Information 

Proving that the pain associated with a medical condition prevents you from working can be difficult, but you can increase your chances of success by enlisting the help of an experienced attorney. To get started, please contact Baltimore disability lawyer Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.