Can You Receive Disability for Chronic Pain?

If you suffer from chronic pain, you know how debilitating it can be – even making it hard to live your daily life to the fullest. While chronic pain isn’t considered a medical condition per the Social Security Administration (SSA), it is still possible to receive disability for chronic pain, but it’s not easy. You will need to be found disabled by the SSA, including ample medical evidence proving you cannot work and perform substantial gainful activities due to your chronic pain.

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is any recurring or ongoing pain that continues longer than the normal length of an injury, more than 6-12 months. It can occur in any part of the body, including but not limited to joints, back or spine, headaches, or nerves. Sometimes there is an underlying condition that causes chronic pain; other times, there is no known cause. This can make it difficult to diagnose as a qualifying condition for Social Security disability benefits.

Is Chronic Pain Considered a Disability?

The SSA has an official list of medical conditions – called the Blue Book – that will automatically qualify a person for disability benefits if they prove they meet the criteria. As mentioned, the SSA does not consider chronic pain a disability, so it’s not listed in the Blue Book. That said, some common conditions can cause chronic pain that is listed in the Blue Book, which includes:

  • Back injuries
  • Chronic renal disease or renal failure
  • Inflammatory arthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neurological disorders
  • Somatoform disorders

How to Improve Your Outcome

You’ll need extensive documentation about your condition to improve your chances of receiving disability for chronic pain. Here are some ways to help build your case.

Document Everything -The SSA will evaluate every aspect of your condition, so documenting as much as possible (in the greatest detail possible) can give you an advantage. Keeping a medical journal can help you stay organized and keep track of your daily limitations. Take note of the following factors:

  • Specific dates and times of episodes
  • Detailed explanations of how your condition impacts you in your daily life
  • Examples of daily tasks you can no longer complete
  • Severity and duration of symptoms
  • Symptom triggers
  • Which parts of your body are affected by pain, including detailed descriptions of the type of pain you experience (such as burning, sharp, dull, and so forth)
  • Any medications you are taking and whether or not they help
  • Side effects related to your medications and how they affect your daily activities
  • Other pain management treatments

Submit a Residential Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment – If you suffer from chronic pain but don’t meet a listing in the Blue Book, you will need to submit an RFC assessment from one or more of your medical providers. This explains your maximum mental and physical capacity and limitations on daily activities such as sitting, standing, walking, and carrying weight. Because pain is subjective, include as much detail and medical proof as possible for the examiner to review.

Explain Your Activities of Daily Living (ADL) – This will help the SSA evaluate your credibility about what you can do daily. Provide information about what you can still do, regardless of your chronic pain – including cooking, cleaning, yard work, childcare, etc.

Be Honest – Honesty is essential with a disability claim, and any indication that you’re not being honest can cause you to lose credibility with the SSA. Be straightforward and very detailed. For example, if you can still grocery shop, but it takes you three times as long, be sure to say so. Honesty is always the best policy for receiving disability benefits for chronic pain.

Contact the Disability Attorneys at Woodruff & Mathis

It’s difficult to qualify for Social Security disability for chronic pain without strong medical evidence that it’s impacting your ability to work – you may even get denied benefits in your initial application stage. At Woodruff & Mathis, we have the experience to help you through every process step. Request an appointment with our disability attorneys today!