What Is a Pain Scale and How Does It Affect Your Disability Benefit Application?

Interviewer: Can you address whatever points I didn’t cover or things that you definitely want to make known about SSI and SSDI?

Jeanne: As our clients’ hearings approach, there are some issues that we see over and over again, and so one of the things that I’ve already posted is a pain scale on our Web site.  Now, many people have been to a doctor’s office and seen the pain scale one through 10 with the little faces.

It Is Important to Accurately Assess and Explain Your Pain Level

I obtained my pain scale from an Ivy-League university and it goes through specifically what pain level one is or two or three or four, because when I’m trying to convince a judge that you’re credible, if you say, “Oh, my pain’s 10 out of 10″ but you’re not acting like it’s 10 out of 10 and when you look at the pain scale, 10 out of 10 means you’re fixing to go unconscious.

What Is Non-Compliance?

If you’re telling the judge that you’re a number 10 degree of pain, but you’re not acting like it, it lowers your credibility.  Then, another posting that’s on the Web page is information about non-compliance.  Again, going back to try to convince that decision maker, which is the judge.

Are You Following the Doctor’s Orders? 

There are times when we look through medical records, and the doctor will write a note in there that somebody’s not being compliant.  In other words, I’ve prescribed the medicine, but he’s not taking it.  Or, I’ve told him to lose weight and he’s not doing it.  Or I’ve told him to quit smoking and he’s not doing it.

When repeatedly throughout somebody’s medical records the doctor is writing, he’s not compliant, not compliant, not compliant, then oftentimes the decision maker is going to state, “Well, if you were just compliant with the treatment, you might not be disabled.”  That’s also important.

Your Medical Condition Must Be Documented by a Physician

There are actually two issues that have to do with medical records.  Again, no matter what the skill of the attorney, no matter how bad you testify or how well you testify about how bad your life is, if it’s not in the medical records, they can’t award you disability for it.  I posted some things about, you know, how to talk to your doctor and how to make sure that you get those records to your attorney and things like that.

Depression and Disability

We see depression many times once somebody has an extended bout of disability.  Say somebody has a musculoskeletal condition or liver dysfunction or something like that, and they’ve been dealing with it for one or two years, and they start to have feelings of worthlessness or trouble sleeping or problems with interacting with others. Then they start to have another symptomatic problem, either anxiety or depression.

Depression Must Also Be Documented along with Other Symptoms

I can’t say how many times I’ve had people document with their doctors their knee problem or their back problem or their migraines or their sleeplessness, but they don’t talk about the depression.  Then when we go to a hearing, they want to talk to the judge about depression, and the judge sometimes says, “I don’t want to hear it.  You never told a doctor.  You never got treatment for it.  It might be debilitating to you, but you didn’t seek treatment.”

That’s really important that, when people go to the doctor, they talk about everything that is involved with their situation because the doctor can’t help you if you don’t tell him what’s wrong.

You May Work Part-Time and Still Apply for Disability

Elvira: I did want to cover that the social security office does allow a person to work and still apply for disability, because there’s several people that are working part time.  As long as you don’t earn more than $1040 a month, you can still apply for disability and they can’t use that against you, because that’s not considered substantial, gainful employment.  You can be working and still apply for disability.

Working Part-Time Will Lower Your SSI Monthly Payments

Interviewer:  Will working make their payments lower?

Elvira: It will lower the payments, but you can put an application in.  On the social security disability insurance, it will not.  But on the supplemental security income it will lower their payment because it depends on how much money’s coming in.

You can only receive up to $740, and if you’re earning $800, they’re going to cut that in half, and that will leave you $400.  Then, after the $400, they’ll subtract $65 from that, and then whatever the balance, they’ll subtract $20.  Then whatever is left, that’s what they’re going to deduct from that $740.