Tag Archives: ssdi
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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 kind of questions will I be asked at my disability hearing?
Many people are interested in knowing details about their disability hearing. For instance, how many and what kind of questions can you expect? Most hearings will be over in under an hour and some even less than that. As a result, you should not have to answer questions for an extended period of time. No matter how short, this hearing is many people’s first experience in such a formal setting and can be quite nerve-wracking. The following is some background information on the process and tips for how to effectively handle the hearing. Whether your hearing is in Dayton, Ohio, Dallas, Texas or Gary, Indiana, the questions asked by the judge will fall into four broad categories: 1) background information; 2) work history; 3) medical conditions and symptoms; and 4) activities of daily living.
As the name implies, background questions provide the judge general information about you. These questions can include your educational history, marital status, income, military service or even past criminal charges. Drug and alcohol use could also conceivably come up, though certainly not always.
The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) might ask for additional information about your job including your responsibilities, the requirements of the job and how your condition has affected your job performance. This last item is the most important. Giving the judge specific examples of problems your condition has caused meeting performance standards, as well as attendance issues that result from your disability can help convince the judge that you are indeed prevented from working.
Although your medical records are on file the judge may want to ask some clarifying questions to make sure he has all the necessary information to make a proper decision. The judge will almost definitely ask you how your medical condition affects you. What type of pain do they cause you? How do you try to relieve the pain? Are your medications effective? How much can you lift and carry? How long can you stand, sit, and walk? This is your chance to explain how your condition affects your life and your work so think through these questions prior to going to the hearing.
When answering medical questions it is important to give clear answers that paint a picture of your level of impairment. If you suffer from back problems and the judge asks you for a description, use words like “burning,” “tingling,” “aching,” “shooting,” or “dull.” Also clearly describe the location of any pain. This will help the judge know decided whether the symptoms are consistent with the recognized symptoms of your condition.
You may also be asked about your activities of daily living. These include normal things like bathing and dressing yourself, cooking, cleaning, yard work, and grocery shopping. If you have children the judge will likely asking for details about how the children are cared for. This provides yet another good opportunity to showcase how your disability impacts your life. It is crucial to explain that even if you are able to help out around the house, your medical condition creates limitations.
With all the above-mentioned categories it’s important to be honest and avoid the temptation to exaggerate. Some may feel that it will help to make their symptoms sound worse than they actually are. This kind of dishonestly usually has the opposite effect. The judges are very experienced and hear many similar cases every year. They are experts at recognizing exaggerations and you do not want to lose credibility in their eyes.
Having an experienced disability attorney help prepare you for your hearing is a wise decision. If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call Nicholson Disability at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Social Security Disability
According to information from the National Institutes of Health, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause severe and ongoing tiredness that cannot be improved by simply resting and that does not result from another underlying disorder. The exact cause of the condition remains a mystery, but some have theorized that exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus might be to blame. Age, gender, prior illnesses, and stress are also believed to play a role. Symptoms of CFS can be wide ranging and include sore throat, headache, low-grade fever, painful joints, memory or concentration problems, swollen glands, and generalized muscle weakness.
According to the Social Security Administration’s Fact Sheet, you must prove that the symptoms of your CFS prevent you from working in order to qualify for disability benefits. To make this determination, the SSA will use the medical evidence you have provided in support of your claim to evaluate whether your symptoms reach the level of severity necessary to qualify for disability.
The diagnosis of CFS requires that you experience at least four of the following symptoms for at least six months:
• memory or concentration problems that cause a serious reduction in your level of activity;
• frequent sore throats;
• tender lymph nodes in the neck or under the arm;
• muscle pain;
• pain in multiple joints without redness or swelling;
• headaches of a different magnitude then those that you had prior to the onset of CFS;
• sleep that never leaves you feeling refreshed; and
• a general feeling of being unwell that lasts at least 24 hours following a period of exertion.
Your medical records must contain documentation that satisfies the above criteria for a diagnosis of CFS and that shows these symptoms did not begin prior to the onset of your chronic fatigue. If your medical records show that the symptoms predate your CFS then your disability claim will likely be denied given that something else may be to blame for your condition.
CFS can be an especially tricky disease to document clinically. Medical tests don’t always capture the severity of the illness and how terribly it can impact a person’s quality of life. It is important to understand going into the process that the SSA will not approve a disability claim based on the description of symptoms alone, though how symptoms affect your daily life is considered in the decision.
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.
It is estimated that more than three million Americans suffer from anemia. That already high number is expected to grow as the population of the country continues to age – currently 10% of those over the age of sixty-five have some form of the disease. Red blood cells are rich in a substance called hemoglobin, a protein that is responsible for carrying oxygen molecules to the body’s other cells. In adults, hemoglobin-rich red blood cells make up between 35% and 52% of a person’s blood; this number is called the hematocrit level. Normal variations in the hematocrit level occur and depend on factors such as gender and a person’s physical fitness. Anemia is said to exist when a person’s hematocrit levels drop too low, indicating that their red blood cells are not properly transporting oxygen to the rest of their body.
The American Society of Hematology believes anemia has two basic causes: a low amount of red blood cells and red blood cells that don’t function properly. Social Security has a section (Hematological Disorders, Section 7.00) that addresses both forms of the disorder.
For anemia caused by low hematocrit levels, the key factors considered are “chronicity” and impairment. Chronicity is demonstrated by proof that a person’s condition has existed for at least three months. This can be shown by at least two medically acceptable tests over a three-month period showing hematocrit levels below 30%. Impairment can be demonstrated by showing that this low red blood cell number has affected an individual’s body systems. Blood transfusions at least once every two months or an evaluation by a doctor will both suffice as proof of impairment.
Sickle cell anemia falls into the second anemia category – anemia caused by malfunctioning, or malformed, red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are shaped like discs, which allow them to travel through an individual’s blood vessels, including capillaries that are only wide enough to allow one cell to pass through. Sickle cell anemia occurs when red blood cells form more rigid, sickle shapes. These bizarrely shaped cells are more easily trapped in smaller blood vessels which can impede proper flow and cause severe pain. Sickle cell is an inherited trait that affects certain groups in particular, especially African Americans.
To qualify for disability due to sickle cell anemia, a claimant must show either:
A. Documented painful (thrombotic) crises occurring at least three times during the 5 months prior to adjudication; or
B. Requiring extended hospitalization (beyond emergency care) at least three times during the 12 months prior to adjudication; or
C. Chronic, severe anemia with persistence of hematocrit of 26 percent or less; or
D. Evaluate the resulting impairment under the criteria for the affected body system.
If you believe that 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.