Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – Evaluating Symptoms

Last week, I discussed how the Social Security Administration evaluates Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims.  This week I want to briefly discuss how the SSA evaluates subjective symptoms by claimants in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) cases.  The SSA evaluates symptoms, including pain and fatigue, and the extent to which the symptoms can be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence. Cases are won and lost on the determination of the validity, extent, and effect of a claimant’s symptoms, such as pain and fatigue.

The SSA follows a two-step process for evaluating symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, or nervousness. First, the adjudicator must consider whether an underlying medically physical or mental impairment could reasonably be expected to produce the claimant’s symptoms. Without such a finding, the symptoms cannot be found to affect the claimant’s ability to work.

Second, the SSA evaluates the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the person’s symptoms to determine the extent to which the symptoms limit the claimant’s ability to do basic work activities. If the person’s complaints are not substantiated by objective medical evidence, then the adjudicator must make a finding on the credibility of the statements based on the entire record. The regulations provide that symptoms, including pain, will diminish a capacity to work to the extent the limitations can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and the record as a whole. When assessing the credibility of a claimant’s statements, the SSA considers:

  • The claimant’s daily activities;
  • The location, duration, frequency, and intensity of the individual’s pain or other symptoms;
  • Factors that precipitate and aggravate the symptoms;
  • The type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effect of any medication the individual takes or has taken to alleviate pain or other symptoms;
  • Treatment, other than medication, the individual receives or has received for relief of pain or other symptoms;
  • Any measures other than treatment the claimant uses or has used to relieve pain or other symptoms; and
  • Any other factors concerning the claimant’s functional limitations and restrictions due to pain or other symptoms.

The SSA looks at consistency of complaints, medical evidence like medical treatment history, and other sources of information such as public and private agencies, other practitioners, and nonmedical sources like family and friends.

If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, EEOICPA, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout Tennessee.




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