With most physically disabling conditions, pain is an unfortunate side effect that adds greatly to the suffering and hardship of the affected individual. In your claim for disability benefits, there are regulations that govern how your pain symptoms are to be evaluated and considered in deciding your case.
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 95-5p, details the manner in which allegations of pain and other symptoms are to be considered in evaluating the residual functional capacity of disability claimants. In most disability cases, rather than awarding benefits based on a diagnosis or on clinical findings alone, the Social Security Administration must find that the applicant lacks the capacity to perform certain work. This requires the SSA to make a determination of one’s “residual functional capacity”. Residual functional capacity refers to the most that an individual can do in spite of their disabling impairments. SSR 95-5p discusses how pain is supposed to be factored into this assessment.
SSR 95-5p notes that “because symptoms sometimes suggest a greater severity of impairment than can be shown by objective medical evidence alone, careful consideration must be given to available information about the symptoms”. This passage of the regulation makes clear that objective findings on x-rays, medical reports, etc., do not always contain the full story with respect to an individual’s limitations. Accordingly, it is important that a judge or evaluator give attention to the applicant’s statements regarding their symptoms, including their pain.
Nevertheless, if you are testifying before a judge in your case, it is important to make clear that your pain not only causes you discomfort or distress, but also impacts your ability to work. For example, the fact that one’s hand pain causes them to drop items or that one’s leg pain renders them unable to stand for prolonged periods is more important than the fact that the individual suffers from pain that is distracting and difficult to withstand.
It is always a good idea to work with an experienced Social Security disability law firm. In preparing your case, your attorney can help you focus on the symptoms most relevant to the judge in your case and the direct relationship between these symptoms and your inability to work.