Tuesday, August 31, 2010


When seeking Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits, you don’t have to prove the etiology of your pain with certainty. However, you do need to show that you have a medical condition that could reasonably produce your pain, and that the pain limits your ability to work.

Headaches obviously can cause pain. Frequent and intense headaches could obviously disable you from work. Nonetheless, it is frequently difficult to establish disability because of headaches, due to a lack of evidence.

Evidence that the pain from headaches limits a person’s ability to work can be obtained through functional assessments of the doctors treating the headaches. However, I’ve found that narrative reports from the treating doctors are usually needed to establish the frequency and intensity of the pain to receive SSD benefits, especially prior to a hearing where the claimant would have to testify about the same, which testimony would then be subject to a credibility determination.

I represent a former 58 year old construction supervisor who had to stop working because of headaches. I submitted functional assessments from the treating doctors showing that the claimant lacked the ability to work on a full time basis. However, it was not until I submitted a narrative report from the claimant’s neurologist that SSD benefits were approved. The narrative report described the severity and frequency of the claimant’s headaches, and concluded that they probably had a central nervous system origin.

Without the narrative report, the claimant would have been required to proceed to a hearing, which among other things, would have delayed his benefits for many months. Because the narrative report supplied objective evidence of the frequency and intensity of the claimant’s headaches, his SSD application was approved in four months.

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