September: Pain Awareness Month

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, about 100 million American experience chronic pain issues. Many of these individuals are still in their prime employment years when pain symptoms begin to hinder the ability to work and earn a steady living. When this happens, disability benefits from the Social Security Administration may be an option.

Chronic Pain and Disability Benefits

Pain can be caused by another medical condition, or in some cases, chronic pain is the cause of disability itself. Either way, if your condition is severe and long-term, then you can potentially get disability through the SSA. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that many people struggle to get approved for benefits, particularly when pain in the primary reason for disability rather than a symptom of another disabling condition.

Can I apply for chronic pain?

This is because pain cannot be easily measured or quantified by modern medicine. Unfortunately, there is no test for pain severity or frequency, which means there are no definitive records to back up a claim based on pain symptoms alone.

In other words, the SSA makes its eligibility determinations based on medical records, including definite tests that prove you have a particular disability. Since there is no “pain test,” if you will, then it can be quite difficult to achieve disability approval based on chronic pain alone. This is true despite the fact that dealing with unrelenting, severe pain can be completely debilitating.

Applying for Benefits with Chronic Pain

People who apply for Social Security disability benefits based primarily on chronic pain always have an uphill battle ahead of them. They often must request a second review of their application and eventually need to file an appeal, after initially being found ineligible for benefits.

You always have the option to secure an attorney’s help when applying for disability. It’s not required, but an advocate or attorney could potentially increase your chances of approval.

In fact, statistics show that people who have legal help more likely to be approved for disability. An attorney’s assistance is especially beneficial at the appeals level, when having legal representation can increase your chances of approval by as much as 20 percent.

Getting Approved for Disability with Another Condition

When chronic pain is a symptom of another condition, you may have an easier time getting approved for benefits. This is because the SSA may have a standard disability listing you can meet or match with your medical records.

Disability listings appear in the SSA’s Blue Book, and there are many that are associated with pain symptoms, including Inflammatory Arthritis, Disorders of the Spine, and Neuropathy, to name just a few.

Getting Help with Your Social Security Disability Claim

Keep in mind, you don’t have to take on the disability application process alone. Get your doctor’s help with scanning the Blue Book for likely matches and consider getting an attorney on board too, especially since a lawyer will work on contingency, which means he or she only gets paid if you get approved for benefits.

Since a disability attorney can increase your chances of approval too, it may make sense to meet with a lawyer before you even begin your application. He or she can help you understand how the application and review processes work, what documentation will be necessary to win your claim, and what your chances are of having to eventually file an appeal in order to get benefits.