Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (“RSD”), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), is a chronic neurological syndrome that is characterized by severe burning pain, pathological changes in bone and skin, excessive sweating, tissue swelling, and extreme sensitivity to touch. Symptoms from RSD/CRPS can be severe enough to prevent a person from working.

I represent a 34 year bakery wrapper whose wrist injuries resulted in RSD/CRPS that causes pain, sweating, chills, numbness, and hypersensitivity. She retained me after her Social Security Disability (“SSD”) application was denied. Because of her age, and because RSD/CRPS is not a “listed” impairment, the claimant had to prove that she was unable to perform sedentary work to establish her entitlement to SSD benefits.

An anesthesiologist who was providing the claimant’s pain management wrote a brief note in October 2007 stating that the claimant was unable to work. Subsequent treatment records stated that the claimant’s condition was getting worse. The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) requires a specific functional capacity assessment from a medical doctor before approving an application for SSD benefits; however, the anesthesiologist did not want to do so. Therefore, I obtained a functional assessment from the claimant’s physical therapist, which consistent with the opinion of the anesthesiologist, provided a functional capacity assessment that precluded sedentary work.

Ordinarily, the SSA will give little weight to an opinion from a physical therapist regarding a claimant’s functional abilities. However, there is a Social Security Ruling covering RSD/CRPS cases that says an opinion from a treating source who is not a medical doctor is often critical in deciding the claimant’s ability to work. Based on the anesthesiologist’s diagnosis of RSD/CRPS, and the physical therapist’s opinion about the claimant’s functional abilities, the claimant’s application was approved on the record without a hearing.

When applying for SSD benefits based on RSD/CRPS make sure that your attorney is aware of the special rules that apply. There are also special rules for many other medical conditions.

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