Chronic pain can impede every aspect of your life, including your ability to work. There are various forms of pain management available, but some patients still suffer greatly despite treatment. If you have a pain condition that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers disabling or another condition that causes chronic pain, you may qualify for disability benefits.
There are various criteria you will need to meet to collect benefits. For more information about applying for disability for chronic pain in Pittsburgh, call Berger and Green at 412-661-1400 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Can I qualify for disability benefits based for my chronic pain?
To qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, you must meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. This means you must have a medically verifiable physical or mental condition that prevents you from working. Your doctor must also have documentation proving your condition has lasted or will last for 12 months or more, or he or she expects it to result in death.
One of the ways to satisfy this definition of disabled is to meet the criteria under one of the listings in the SSA’s Blue Book, which lists the impairments that the SSA considers disabling. Chronic pain is not one of the listed conditions.
However, the Blue Book does list certain pain-related disorders and impairments that cause chronic pain. Some of these listed conditions include:
- Somatoform pain disorder;
- Inflammatory arthritis;
- Back injuries;
- Peripheral neuropathy; and
- Chronic renal disease.
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How does the SSA evaluate listed conditions related to pain?
The SSA evaluates each impairment differently. If you have a listed condition, you will need to meet certain severity criteria in addition to providing a diagnosis from your doctor. For example, if you have a somatic symptom disorder, you must prove that you meet both of the following criteria:
- You display at least one of the following: A change in your voluntary motor or sensory function that is not due to another disorder; distressing somatic symptoms that include excessive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors; and/or a fixation with having or acquiring an illness without symptoms present; and
- You show “extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two,” of: The ability to comprehend, recall, and use information; the ability to interact with other people; the ability to focus, persist, or keep up your pace; and/or the ability to adapt or control yourself.
Because chronic pain can correlate with numerous conditions, finding your condition in the Blue Book can be challenging. For help with determining whether your specific condition might entitle you to disability benefits, contact us for a free case evaluation.
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Can I still draw disability benefits if I don’t meet the criteria for a listing?
If you don’t meet the criteria for a listing, you may still qualify for benefits if you can show the SSA that your condition prevents you from engaging in any Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA). Technically, if your monthly income exceeds $1,170 per month, you are engaging in SGA and will not meet the SSA’s definition of disabled.
The claims examiners will assess your records, talk to your doctors, and evaluate your residual functional capacities. They will evaluate the intensity, persistence, and effects of your chronic pain and determine how your symptoms and conditions impair your ability to work. For example, if you have severe arthritic pain in your hands, you may be unable to do many types of jobs.
If the agency finds that given your limitations, skills, education, and age, you are unable to do your old work and cannot adjust to new work, they might still deem you disabled.
What other requirements must I meet to collect disability benefits?
Being considered disabled is just one part of qualifying for disability benefits. You will also need to satisfy work history or financial requirements. The criteria that apply to your case depend on which of the two disability benefit programs you are applying for.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): If you are applying for SSDI, a disability benefit for workers, you must have a sufficient number of work credits on your record. You earn work credits by working at a job that withdrew Social Security taxes from your paychecks. The number of credits you need to qualify is contingent on your age.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): People with inadequate work histories, such as blind persons, children, and adults who have not worked long enough or recently enough, will want to instead apply for SSI. This is a needs-based disability program, so your income and assets must fall below certain thresholds to qualify.
If you have questions about the disability requirements for work credits, assets, and your income, contact us today. Our attorneys can evaluate your case and determine whether or not you may qualify for disability benefits for your chronic pain.
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What if the SSA denied my disability claim?
If the SSA denied your claim for benefits, our disability attorneys at Berger and Green can help you appeal your case. We will start by determining exactly why the SSA denied your claim and then gather additional evidence to fill in the gaps and bolster your case. There is a strict 60-day time limit on when you can take action after an appeal, so the sooner we get moving on your case, the better.
Disability benefits can be a valuable resource for you and your family as you try to deal with chronic pain. Contact our office in Pittsburgh at 412-661-1400 to talk with a disability lawyer about your case.