I Have Chronic Pain, Can I get Disability?
If you suffer from chronic pain you understand just how variable the condition can be. For some the pain is continuous, for others it is intermittent, some suffer terribly while others live with less severe pain. Chronic pain is broadly defined as pain that cannot be eliminated by standard medical treatment, pain that persists after an injury or illness has resolved, or pain for which no origin can be determined.
Though the suffering is real, many with the disorder have trouble convincing the Social Security Administration that their pain prevents them from working. The difficulty of quantifying pain presents unique difficulties for those with chronic pain seeking to receive disability benefits. Given this, it is important to note that simply telling the SSA that you have disabling chronic pain is not enough, it must be clearly demonstrated through testimony and medical evidence.
It may surprise some to know that chronic pain is not a listed disorder in Social Security’s listing of impairments that may automatically qualify you for disability benefits. This does not mean that hope is lost, as there are many other diagnoses that are often related to chronic pain, including:
• inflammatory arthritis;
• somatoform disorders;
• back injury;
• chronic renal disease; and
• inflammatory bowel disease.
If you do not qualify under another a listing category, then you will have to qualify for disability benefits through a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) assessment. An RFC assessment mean that the process for deciding whether disability benefits will be awarded boils down to two important questions:
1) Do you have objective evidence that demonstrates a medically determinable impairment that could reasonably be the source of your pain?
2) If you are able to demonstrate such an impairment, how intense and persistent is the pain and how does it limit your ability to perform basic work activities?
For an impairment to be “medically determinable” it must be an anatomical, physiological or psychological abnormality that can be shown through clear evidence from reliable medical sources. Such sources include testimony from doctors, medical records and lab results. Without these tangible sources, your testimony alone will not be enough to prove your disability before the SSA.
When determining the level of pain, the SSA evaluates both the intensity of the pain and how the pain affects the individual’s ability to do basic work activities. An individual’s statements are important here as the SSA knows that some pain is more severe than can be demonstrated through medical evidence alone. Testimony describing the pain and how it impacts your daily life is considered with the rest of the relevant evidence in the case record when making a decision.
The SSA also considers the following factors when assessing your pain:
• The location, duration, frequency and intensity of the individual’s pain;
• The type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of any medication the individual takes or has taken to alleviate pain;
• Treatment, other than medication, the individual receives or has received for relief of pain;
• Any measures, other than treatment, the individual uses or has used to relieve pain.
If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Nationwide Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.
What is Multiple Sclerosis and How Can I Prove my Disability?
If you live with multiple sclerosis and are unable to work due to an MS-related disability, you might be entitled to disability benefits. MS is a disease in which the medical community knows little regarding its cause or how to best treat it. Doctors do know that it is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Signals transmitted along the nerves are slowed or even stopped by damage to what is known as the myelin sheath. In healthy people, myelin helps the nerve impulses travel smoothly throughout the nervous system. This slowing or stopping of the nerve impulses is what causes the MS symptoms. These symptoms include vertigo, depression, fatigue, tremors, bladder dysfunction, reflux, bowel dysfunction, pain, vision problems, muscle weakness, muscle spasm and even possible cognitive impairments.
Multiple Sclerosis is typically diagnosed with an MRI scan. However, an MRI positive finding is not enough to automatically begin receiving disability benefits since many people with a positive MRI will never show symptoms of MS. To be found disabled by the SSA a doctor will need to show that you meet the standard contained in the SSA’s medical impairment listing or that your impairment makes it so that you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity. You will need all your medical records, hospital visits, test results including MRI and RFC forms filled out by you doctor to show your physical or mental limitations in your ability to work.
Under the MS listing, the SSA considers the following four factors in determining if a person is sufficiently disabled to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits: 1) fatigue; 2) disorganization of motor function; 3) visual impairment; and 4) mental impairment. A sufficient showing under any of these four categories can qualify a claimant for benefits.
The first factor, fatigue, is often the most disabling and sadly, the most overlooked symptom of MS. The exams by the SSA medical consultants rarely properly account for the disabling affect of fatigue on someone suffering from the condition. As a result, fatigue should be documented by keeping a diary of your everyday activities and how they are affected by your fatigue. Medical records can also be a good way to demonstrate severe fatigue if your doctor has done a good job or reporting your complaints of fatigue. Statements from friends or family members who have observed the impact exhaustion has had on your life can also be helpful.
Other important limitations that can be shown to boost your chance of success with a disability claim include the need to use the bathroom frequently, cognitive limitations, dizziness, difficulty using hands, visual limitations, and muscle weakness. Many people with MS also have depression and any limitations from this condition can also be helpful in proving disability.
If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits due to MS or other ailments or have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.
The Trouble With Proving Fibromyalgia to the SSA
Fibromyalgia syndrome is an often extremely painful condition that is notoriously difficult to diagnosis. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, it is defined as a “collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems” that do not have an attributed cause. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, balance and coordination problems, recurring migraines and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is more often seen in women, estimated at some 80% of fibromyalgia cases, though this is certainly not always the case.
What makes fibromyalgia so difficult to pin down is that there is currently no one test to definitively diagnose the disorder. A process of elimination is used instead, with patients undergoing tests to cross off other possible conditions. Many people thus incorrectly see fibromyalgia as a catchall when that is not the case as there are specific requirements that must be met prior to receiving a diagnosis. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a patient must show widespread pain in all four body quadrants for at least three months and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 points when pressure is applied.
Because of the debilitating effect of fibromyalgia, many sufferers are unable to continue working and disability benefits may be an option for them. Typically, to obtain disability benefits, the applicant must have a written diagnosis of fibromyalgia from a medical doctor, often times a rheumatologist given that the SSA gives these doctors’ opinions more weight when it comes to the condition. The visit to the doctor should include a physical and neurological exam including a test of trigger points. Besides the diagnosis, the patient will have to supply records, a list of all treating physicians, detailed descriptions of symptoms, attempted treatments and limitations the disorder has caused.
Your own testimony is crucial when the decision is made to award disability benefits for fibromyalgia. The list of possible physical and mental limitations associated with fibromyalgia is endless and your personal description of the syndrome becomes critical given how subjective many of the symptoms are. It is very important that your testimony comes across to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) as credible. You may also want to have someone who knows you well and understands the impact the disorder has had on your life testify as to what you have been going through.
If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits due to fibromyalgia or have questions, call The Disability Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.
How Will Prison Affect My Disability Benefits?
When a person is facing incarceration there is surely a lot on their mind. If the person is receiving Social Security Disability benefits, one of the questions might be whether or not they can keep their disability benefits. The following information will help you better understand exactly what will happen to your Social Security Disability benefits if you are sent to jail.
The rules for suspending Social Security payments for people who are in jail are different based on which type of assistance you receive. The following is an explanation for how each system works:
• Supplemental Security Income
You can receive SSI payments until you have been in jail or prison for a full calendar month from the first of the month through the last day. For example, if you went to jail or prison on July 4, your SSI would continue during July and all of August. If, on the other hand, you went to jail prison on on July 1 then benefits would cease on August 1.
• Social Security Disability Insurance
SSDI rules are different from those for SSI. You will be permitted to receive SSDI benefits until you have been convicted of a criminal offense and spent 30 days in jail or prison. This means that your disability payments will stop on the 31st day you are incarcerated after a conviction.
• SSI and SSDI
If you receive both an SSI and an SSDI check each month, your SSDI payments will stop after 30 days of incarceration following conviction, but your SSI will continue until you have been in jail or prison for a full calendar month, as in the description for SSI above.
Once you are released from jail, it is possible to have your Social Security Disability benefits reinstated. Your benefits can begin the month after you have been released from jail as long as you still qualify for the benefits you had been receiving. If your condition has improved and you no longer qualify, your Social Security Disability benefits will not resume.
To have your benefits reinstated after your release from prison, you will need to visit your local Social Security office and notify them of your release. You will need to bring proof of your release from jail before they can begin payment.
The exception to this rule is if you are in prison for more than 12 months. If you are in prison for more than 12 months, your benefits will not automatically be reinstated after your release. Instead, you will need to re-apply for benefits and go through the lengthy application process all over again.
If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.
The Importance of Social Media in Social Security Disability Claims
Before the advent of the Internet, investigators had a much harder job. Collecting information, verifying statements and making sure everything added up is a lot more difficult without the help of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networking services. The rise of these websites has encouraged people to post a plethora of personal information about themselves online for anyone to access. It’s important to understand that friends and family are not the only people taking notice. While this information is primarily useful in the personal injury context, it can be equally valuable when it comes to Social Security Disability claims.
Disability benefits exist to offer support due to those unable to work due to a debilitating condition. Would a quick look through your social media profiles indicate that you deserve such benefits? Better hope so, because it could spell disaster for your case if you’re claiming a terrible back injury yet have pictures plastered across Facebook of your recent tango lessons or bungee jumping adventure.
Investigators and judges use social networking websites and could conceivably check up on what you’ve been doing while you’re claiming injury. And it’s not just your profile that could cause problems, being tagged in a photograph by a friend who does not have privacy settings on a Facebook page can also spell trouble. While this article should not be read as encouraging deception, disabled parties should be aware that anything posted online is not 100% private.
The following are some suggested steps for ensuring that your online footprint remains as small and as private as possible.
1. Immediately make your profile “private,” and set all privacy settings to the highest level.
2. Remember to not discuss your accident, injuries or treatment, including any prescribed medication, on ANY social networking sites.
3. Avoid discussing recent activities you’ve engaged in, physical exertion, abilities and limitations, or any other information that may bear on what you can and cannot do because of your condition.
4. Be sure you know everyone who is your “friend.” Do not accept friend requests from people you do not personally know.
5. Review your friend list and block anyone you are not 100% sure you trust. Investigators could pose as a friend or get information from others who are to gain access to potentially incriminating information that could negatively affect your claim.
If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits or have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.
Last updated by John Nicholson on .