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Assessing chronic pain in Social Security disability claims

The Social Security Administration recognizes that chronic pain conditions may be disabling. For that reason, several conditions which cause chronic pain can be found in the SSA's comprehensive listing of disabling impairments. The compilation is officially entitled the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, and also known as the Blue Book. 

To qualify for SSDI payments, a worker must be unable to perform any type of sustained work activity and the impairment must be anticipated to last for at least a year. Yet individuals suffering from chronic pain conditions have a difficult time obtaining Social Security disability insurance benefits. Measuring the severity of chronic pain is always subjective, and the effectiveness of treatments may vary greatly among patients.

Unfortunately, a patient's race may impact his or her pain treatment, according to a recent article from the New York Times. Specifically, a recently published analysis covering 20 years of published research found that black patients where 34 percent less likely to receive stronger prescription medications for backaches, migraines and abdominal pain than white patients. The discrepancy was slightly less for traumatic injuries or surgery, at 14 percent.

The lesson for individuals seeking disability benefits is to find doctors who will find them credible in their description of their symptoms.  Who your doctor is and what they believe about your condition can determine, in some cases, whether your disability claim will be approved or denied.  If you have a chronic pain condition, seek the best medical care and look for a recognized specialist in pain management who believes your description of your symptoms.

At the Disability Benefits Law Center, we have the experience to know what type of evidence a disability examiner will be looking for, as well as strategies for improving a SSDI claim. We always offer a free initial consultation and will help you with your online application with SSA. Call our toll free number at 1-866-886-0660 so we can begin to advise you.

Source: The New York Times, "Finding Good Pain Treatment Is Hard. If You're Not White, It's Even Harder." Abby Goodnough, Aug. 9, 2016

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