What Medical Proof Is Helpful for a Los Angeles County or Orange County Social Security Disability Claim?
Most of our Los Angeles County and Orange County Social Security disability claims are about symptoms, as your Sherman Oaks Disability Attorney will tell you. Shortness of breath, dizziness, nervousness, fatigue, pain and the like keep claimants from working. Symptoms are what make claimants disabled.
Social Security Administration Believes Differently
Many disability examiners, however, feel that disability determination is really about objective medical evidence, according to a Sherman Oaks Disability Attorney. They say that the most important evidence is objective medical proof. That is what they look at first to figure out if a claimant is disabled. Some Social Security Administration decision makers decide cases as if objective medical proof is necessary to show the degree of symptoms alleged by a claimant or that a claimant could be denied solely because objective evidence does not substantiate the claimant’s statements about symptoms. Indeed, many Social Security Administration decision makers rank objective medical evidence higher than required by the Social Security Act and regulations.
The Social Security Act and regulations say only that objective medical evidence should show that the claimant’s impairment could cause the sort of symptom alleged by the claimant. Although Social Security Administration regulations require that a claimant’s limitations be consistent with objective medical evidence, they also require consistency with all other evidence in the record. Thus, the importance of objective medical evidence is not elevated above the importance of other evidence in the record. And a requirement that limitations be consistent with objective evidence is vastly different from requiring objective evidence to support the degree of impairment. A Sherman Oaks Disability Attorney will tell you that the regulations require that a claimant’s statements about symptoms not be rejected solely because objective evidence does not substantiate them.
The Social Security Administration’s symptom regulation is summarized in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(a) as follows:
- (a) General. In determining whether you are disabled, we consider all your symptoms, including pain, and the extent to which your symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence. By objective medical evidence, we mean medical signs and laboratory findings as defined in § 404.1528 (b) and (c). By other evidence, we mean the kinds of evidence described in §§ 404.1512(b)(2) through (6) and 404.1513(b)(1), (4), and (5), and (d). These include statements or reports from you, your treating or nontreating source, and others about your medical history, diagnosis, prescribed treatment, daily activities, efforts to work, and any other evidence showing how your impairment(s) and any related symptoms affect your ability to work. We will consider all of your statements about your symptoms, such as pain, and any description you, your treating source or nontreating source, or other persons may provide about how the symptoms affect your activities of daily living and your ability to work. However, statements about your pain or other symptoms will not alone establish that you are disabled; there must be medical signs and laboratory findings which show that you have a medical impairment(s) which could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms alleged and which, when considered with all of the other evidence (including statements about the intensity and persistence of your pain or other symptoms which may reasonably be accepted as consistent with the medical signs and laboratory findings), would lead to a conclusion that you are disabled. In evaluating the intensity and persistence of your symptoms, including pain, we will consider all of the available evidence, including your medical history, the medical signs and laboratory findings and statements about how your symptoms affect you. (Section 404.1527 explains how we consider opinions of your treating source and other medical opinions on the existence and severity of your symptoms, such as pain.) We will then determine the extent to which your alleged functional limitations and restrictions due to pain or other symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the medical signs and laboratory findings and other evidence to decide how your symptoms affect your ability to work.
Evaluation with Two-step Test
This regulation provides for a two-step test for evaluating any symptom. At the first step, there must be objective evidence of some sort showing the claimant has a “medically determinable impairment” that could cause the symptom. To satisfy this first step, if the claimant alleges pain, there must be a medically determinable impairment that could cause some pain, any pain. This first-step finding does not address the “intensity, persistence, or functionally limiting effects” of the symptom. That comes later.
At the first step, a mere allegation of pain or other symptoms is insufficient. The claimant must have a medically determinable impairment “which could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms alleged.” This threshold requirement is the only point where objective medical evidence is absolutely required.
At the second step, the determination as to the intensity, persistence and functionally limiting effects of pain or other symptoms is made. For this, the decision maker must evaluate the evidence in the record as a whole. At the second step objective evidence of the degree of symptoms is not required. All the evidence must be evaluated, including the objective medical evidence. So while objective medical evidence does not drop out of consideration for the second step, a claimant’s allegations about symptoms may not be discredited solely because they are not substantiated by objective evidence. Nevertheless, allegations about symptoms need not be accepted to the extent they are inconsistent with the available evidence, including objective evidence of the underlying impairment.
Application of Regulations to Your Case
One of the ways we help Los Angeles County and Orange County Social Security disability claimants is by applying Social Security regulations like this one in a way that most favorably presents your claim to the Social Security Administration.
If we can help you with your Social Security disability claim and you live in Los Angeles County or Orange County, call our office at 818-905-6611 or email us to contact a Sherman Oaks Disability Attorney.
Lowenstein Disability Lawyers
Greater Los Angeles Social Security Disability Attorneys
15315 Magnolia Blvd., Suite 402
Sherman Oaks, California 91403