Proving the disabling impact of pain and other symptoms in your Michigan Social Security case
Many of my Michigan Social Security disability clients suffer with pain that severely limits their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to persuade the Social Security Administration that pain is disabling because pain, by its very nature, is subjective. Different people experience pain differently, and there is no test that can accurately quantify or qualify a person’s pain.
Social Security uses a two-part analysis to evaluate pain and other symptoms
The Social Security Administration uses a two-step analysis to evaluate an applicant’s claims of pain and other symptoms (e.g., headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, etc.):
- Does “objective medical evidence” support the applicant’s claims of pain or other symptoms? If so,
- Does “all the available evidence” support the applicant’s claims regarding the disabling nature of the pain or other symptoms?
In the first part of the analysis, the Social Security Administration considers only the “objective medical evidence” of your symptoms – medical test results, lab findings, x-rays, and other similar evidence that can be reliably documented and typically is found in your medical records. The Social Security decision-maker is looking for evidence that a “medically determinable impairment” could cause the symptoms you claim to have. Without objective medical evidence, your claim for Michigan Social Security disability benefits will be denied.
Once you clear this first hurdle, the scope of the review widens to include “all the available evidence” in your case. “All the available evidence” means the objective medical evidence plus any other evidence related to your daily activities; your medications and treatment; the intensity, persistence, duration, and frequency of your pain and other symptoms; and the functionally limiting effects of your pain and other symptoms. “Other available evidence” may come from statements made by you or by other persons familiar with your case, including your doctors. The decision-maker must consider all symptom-related limitations that are reasonably consistent with the available evidence in your case.
Be your own best advocate by providing detailed testimony at your Michigan Social Security disability hearing
Because of the subjective nature of pain and other symptoms, your testimony at your Michigan Social Security disability hearing can be the most persuasive evidence of the disabling impact of your impairment. If you are able to provide detailed examples of the nature of your symptoms (e.g., the frequency, intensity and duration of your pain) and how those symptoms impact your daily life, this testimony will go a long way toward convincing the judge to grant your claim for disability benefits. For example, if you suffer from shortness of breath, you have to tell the judge something more than, “I have trouble breathing.” For your testimony to be persuasive, you have to provide examples of how your shortness of breath affects your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. How far can you walk? Can you climb a flight of stairs? Can you play with your children? Can you sleep in a fully reclined position? What activities are you no longer able to do because you can’t take a full breath? The answers to these types of questions will paint a clear picture for the judge to consider as he or she makes the disability determination in your case.
An experienced Michigan Social Security disability lawyer can help you prove the disabling nature of your symptoms
An experienced Michigan Social Security disability lawyer can help move your claim forward by (1) reviewing your medical records to make sure your file contains objective medical evidence of the fact of your symptoms; and (2) preparing you for your hearing, so that you will be comfortable talking sincerely and openly about the nature and the disabling impact of your symptoms. I have been helping Michigan Social Security disability applicants since 1975. If you would like to talk with me about your symptoms or any other aspect of your claim, please use the Free Claim Evaluation form on this page to tell me about your situation. If you prefer, call me directly in my East Lansing office, or send me an email.