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Establishing pain as the basis of a Social Security disability award for Atlanta Social Security claimants

Many Atlanta Social Security claimants base their application for disability benefits on chronic pain. Pain can be disabling and can be so severe that it prevents you from working, but to establish it as a basis for a Social Security disability award requires evidence of a “medically determinable impairment.”

To qualify for a disability award, pain must be linked to a medically determinable impairment

To convince the Social Security Administration that your pain qualifies for a disability award, there must be an underlying physical or mental impairment that could reasonably be expected to cause the pain. That means that it is necessary to establish an anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormality that is demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.

The Social Security regulations state that a “physical or mental impairment must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not only by your statement of symptoms.” That means that your subjective statements about the problems you have from your pain are not enough. There must be medical signs and laboratory findings, established by medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques, that show the existence of a medical impairment.

The Social Security Administration looks for objective evidence of pain

Although the Social Security Administration recognizes that the severity of pain can be very subjective, it looks for objective medical evidence to establish the basis for pain.

One of the Social Security regulations says that your pain will be determined to diminish your capacity for basic work activities to the extent that your alleged functional limitations and restrictions due to the pain can reasonable be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence.

Another regulation says: “Because symptoms such as pain are subjective and difficult to quantify, any symptom-related functional limitations and restrictions which you, your treating or examining physician or psychologist, or other person report, which can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence, will be taken into account . . . in reaching a conclusion as to whether you are disabled.”

Ways that your doctor can help your claim for Social Security disability benefits based on pain

Sometimes the Social Security records do not have any medical opinion about whether or not the alleged symptoms are reasonably consistent with the objective medical evidence.

Your treating doctor can help with your disability claim by addressing some of these questions in his or her report:

  • What factors indicate that the claimant’s symptoms are reasonably consistent with the objective evidence?
  • Why do you not think that the claimant is malingering?
  • Have you seen patients with similar objective findings who describe similar symptoms?
  • What is the range of symptoms that could be described as reasonably consistent with the objective evidence in this case?
  • Are there additional indicia of reliability (other than the objective medical evidence) that lend credence to the claimant’s description of his symptoms?
  • Are there personality factors that help explain any possible discrepancy between symptoms and objective evidence?
  • Is there a “functional overlay”?
  • Is there depression, anxiety or any other mental impairment that may enhance the claimant’s symptoms?
  • If the claimant’s symptoms really are inconsistent with the objective medical evidence, is there the possibility of a somatoform disorder?

Have an Atlanta Social Security Lawyer help with your Social Security disability claim

Proving a disability to the Social Security Administration that is primarily based on pain symptoms requires a careful and thorough record. If you are not already represented by a Georgia disability lawyer, and would like our evaluation of your case, fill out the form at the top of the page, or contact us.

Alex Simanovsky
Atlanta Social Security disability lawyer


2300 Henderson Mill Road, Suite 300
Atlanta, Georgia 30345