• 33 N. Dearborn Street, Suite 650, Chicago, IL 60602
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • LinkedIN
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • How to Apply
  • Applied and Waiting
  • Denied
  • Social Security Benefit Types
  • Medical Conditions

Why Won't Social Security Believe I Suffer from Chronic Back Pain?

Posted by on in Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, disability applicant, chronic back pain, disability claimsOne of the most common reasons why people seek Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is they are simply in too much pain to keep working. When that pain has a clear medical explanation, you would think that should be enough to satisfy Social Security officials. Yet in far too many cases, agency officials simply dismiss “subjective” complaints of pain, even while acknowledging a disability applicant has a serious mental or physical impairment.

Judge Criticizes Social Security for “Selective” Misrepresentation of Evidence

Let us consider a recent decision by a federal judge in southern Illinois. The plaintiff is a woman in her mid-40s who first applied for disability benefits over five years ago. Previously, she worked as a customer service representative until her medical condition left her unable to sit all day.

More specifically, the plaintiff suffers from chronic back pain. At a hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), the plaintiff presented evidence detailing her extensive treatment history. She also testified as to the “intensity, persistence, and limiting effects” of her pain and related symptoms.

The ALJ agreed the evidence showed the plaintiff had provided a medical explanation for her pain and other symptoms. Yet the ALJ then said he did not believe the plaintiff's own testimony regarding the frequency and severity of her pain. The ALJ concluded the plaintiff's testimony was “not entirely consistent with the medical evidence,” and for this and other reasons, denied her application for disability benefits.

The plaintiff then sued the Social Security Administration in federal court. A judge agreed with the plaintiff that the ALJ's reasoning was problematic and justified a new hearing. Indeed, the judge categorized the ALJ's position regarding the plaintiff's testimony as “nonsensical.” After all, “If [the] plaintiff's impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the symptoms that she alleges, why does the ALJ doubt the accuracy of her claims?”

The ALJ appeared to discount the plaintiff's testimony based on the fact she continued to work for several years after the initial onset of her back pain, as well as her failure to seek immediate medical treatment when she was no longer able to work. But as the judge explained, the plaintiff suffers from a “degenerative” condition, which naturally suggests her pain worsened over time. As for her medical treatment decisions, the plaintiff was without health insurance for a time after she left her customer service job. The judge said the ALJ should have considered this in making his assessments about the plaintiff's testimony.

The judge further chided the ALJ for misrepresenting certain parts of the evidentiary record. For example, the ALJ claimed the plaintiff's doctor dropped her for lying about her drug use. In fact, the doctor made a mistake and continued to see the plaintiff after admitting it.

Get Help from a Cook County Social Security Attorney Today

When it comes to a disability applicant's medical condition, Social Security officials often only see what they want to, regardless of the facts. This is why it is imperative you work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer who will make sure the record in your case is complete and accurate. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need help today.


  • DuPage County Bar Association
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • SuperLawyers


Download a free copy of our book
10 Things Social Security Won't Tell You

Evanston Office
Address1603 Orrington Avenue, Suite 600
Evanston, IL 60201
Phone(847) 999-0419
Schaumburg Office
Address1821 Walden Square, Suite 400
Schaumburg, IL 60173
Phone(847) 979-9499
Downers Grove Office
Address1431 Opus Place, Suite 110
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Phone(630) 366-0999
Lake Forest Office
Address100 S. Saunders Rd., Suite 150
Lake Forest, IL 60045
Phone(847) 220-9998
Orland Park Office
Address15255 S. 94th Avenue, Suite 500
Orland Park, IL 60462
Phone(708) 986-0999
Chicago Office
Address33 N. Dearborn Street, Suite 650
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone(312) 999-0999

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.

Chat Us Text Us