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Social Security May Not Ignore Disability Applicants' Pain

 Posted on September 25, 2015 in Social Security Disability

Chicago social security disability attorney, disability applicants' painIf you are disabled due to chronic and debilitating pain, Social Security officials may try to disregard your suffering and deny your claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. That is not the law, however. Federal judges in Illinois have made it quite clear the Social Security Administration cannot simply ignore a claimant's testimony regarding pain. Indeed, in a number of recent cases, the courts have reversed Social Security denials attempted on such grounds.

In one case, Social Security denied the disability claim of an Iraq war veteran injured in a bomb attack while on duty. According to court records, the claimant required 18 surgeries on his knee and leg. Although he was able to find civilian work, he later re-injured the knee and required additional surgeries to address his complaints of chronic pain. Yet, the administrative law judge (ALJ) who reviewed the claimant's application disregarded his testimony, saying any complaints about his pain were not supported by “objective evidence.”

On appeal, a federal judge in Peoria strongly disagreed, noting the fact the claimant had undergone 20 surgeries—and still had shrapnel from the original bomb attack in his leg—provided more than enough “objective evidence” to support his testimony. Nor did the fact the claimant was not taking pain medication disprove his complaints, as the ALJ determined. The judge said the ALJ disregarded the claimant's own medical records, which showed he stopped taking pain medication “because it did nothing for him.” Accordingly, the judge ordered the Social Security Administration to reconsider the claimant's application, affording proper weight to his testimony regarding ongoing pain.

Pain is Real, Even if Tests Cannot Prove it

Unfortunately, this claimant's story is not unusual. This past February, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago noted in another decision “the recurrent error made by the Social Security Administration's administrative law judges, and noted in many of our cases, of discounting pain testimony that can't be attributed to 'objective' injuries or illnesses—the kind of injuries and illnesses revealed by x-rays.” Indeed, the Seventh Circuit said the Social Security Administration routinely disregarded its own regulations in this area, which state a claimant's testimony regarding chronic pain “may not be disregarded solely because they are not substantiated by objective medical evidence.”

In the case before the Seventh Circuit, a person suffering from chronic back pain due to scoliosis was deemed not disabled by Social Security after the ALJ disregarded the testimony of not only the claimant, but two physicians and a therapist. The ALJ said the medical experts' opinions did not matter because they were based largely on the claimant's subjective claims of pain. The Seventh Circuit disagreed. Noting the ALJ's opinion was “riddled with errors,” the appeals court said “pain can be real and intense yet its cause not be discernible by medical tests or examinations.”

Get Help from Our Social Security Attorneys

If you are living with pain severe enough that you can no longer work, it is important you seek assistance from a qualified Chicago Social Security Disability attorney. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today if you need to speak with someone right away.




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