How do I Describe How Painful My Disability is to the Social Security Judge

One part of filing for disability is having to testify before a Social Security Judge. This can be a difficult and intimidating process, where you may not know how to respond to their questions. You may feel overwhelmed, if not misdirected at times, since these judges are looking for concise and direct answers. 

If your disability includes chronic pain, your lived experience can be difficult to translate to others. Pain is often subjective, and can rate from dull aches, to pins and needles, to something that is so severe that it is indescribable. For the sake of your claim, you have to make clear what you are feeling, and how it impacts your life. This article will guide you through the type of testimony you should expect to encounter, and how you should respond to questioning when you go to the hearing with your Birmingham social security attorneyDescribing Pain to Social Security Judge

What to Expect from the Judge

Judges will want to know about your pain, using a few types of questions to get the best possible response. You may get questions like

  • Where is the pain located?
  • What does the pain feel like?
  • How long have you had it?
  • How often do you experience pain? Is it constant, or does it come and go?
  • Can you rate your pain on a scale of 1 – 10? If so, does medication make a difference?
  • Is there anything that lessens your pain? 
  • Do you have good and bad days?
  • Does the pain impose any limitations on your activities or daily life?

How to Respond with a Proper Description of Your Pain

Well before you go to your hearing, it might help if you create a pain journal that tracks days, times, locations, activities, medications, and duration of your pain. This will help you remember the proper descriptors of your pain, and it is something concrete that you can rely on.

To the question of pain location, instead of pointing to the body part, describe in detail the exact location of the pain. For example, if your pain is in your right arm, say that the pain radiates from my shoulder to my elbow and to my wrist. 

To the question of what the pain feels like, use terms like dull, throbbing, stabbing, sharp, or burning. The specificity of these terms is very useful.

For the questions about the length of time and frequency, this is where your pain journal and knowledge of the date of your injury will come in handy.

Pain scale questions are where you should be incredibly honest. It might seem like saying “my pain is at a 10” will help you out, but if it is not the case then you should not say it. Exaggeration of your pain levels to the Social Security Judge can work against you.

In a response about what lessens your pain, think about activities like sitting, lying down, elevating your legs, or avoiding activities like lifting. Some of these activities will mean that you are ineligible to participate in the workforce. 

Your pain journal will also help with the last two questions (Do you have good and bad days? Does the pain create limitations on daily activities?). Maintain the journal for several weeks and you will have all of the information you will need. 

If you follow these tips, you will have a much easier time answering the judge’s questions, and you will be much more likely to be successful with your Alabama disability case.

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