Evaluation of back injury cases in Virginia and West Virginia
Many of my Virginia and West Virginia Social Security disability clients suffer from back injuries resulting in low back pain. Back pain cases present the challenge of convincing the Social Security Administration that your pain is real and disabling.
Evidence of back pain considered by the Social Security Administration
In determining the severity of your impairment from a back injury, the Social Security Administration will weigh:
- Your objective abnormalities,
- Your reported pain and other symptoms, and
- Your credibility.
Objective medical evidence may not prove degree of back pain
Unfortunately, claimants may suffer pain and limitation of motion but may not have significant neurological findings. It is possible for there to be very little objective evidence of a back impairment, yet a claimant may be disabled. For example, chronic back strain where there is no evidence of any x-ray changes still can be disabling.
X-rays, computerized tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine often cannot prove how severe your back pain is. Many people with significant abnormalities revealed by medical imaging have mild or no symptoms. On the other hand, some people who report excruciating back pain have minimal abnormalities.
Subjective evidence of back pain and your credibility
In any back injury case, objective evidence is important. But the Social Security Administration also must consider the subjective things: your medical history, the consistency of your complaints, and your credibility.
The Social Security Administration will look at the overall consistency of your subjective complaints of back pain. Are they consistent over time? Do you appear to tell one doctor one thing and another doctor another thing? Can inconsistencies in your complaints or in what you have told various doctors be explained by changes in your symptoms over time?
In assessing your credibility, the Social Security Administration is strongly influenced by your behavior in seeking relief of alleged symptoms, your activities that are limited by pain, the nature and frequency of your visits to a doctor for treatment, your response to treatment, and comments about your credibility in the treating doctor’s records.
Psychogenic factors in back pain
Chronic disabling low back pain develops more frequently in patients who are suffering from psychological distress or who have an extreme fear of pain which leads them to avoid physical therapy, exercise, and other beneficial activities. If your pain is out of proportion to what might be expected given the medical evidence, these psychogenic factors may help to explain the discrepancy. Your disability attorney can obtain your treating doctor’s opinion as to whether you may be experiencing a psychogenic overlay. If that is the case, a psychological evaluation may be in order to corroborate the problem.
Assistance with back injuries in Virginia and West Virginia
A disability claim based on a back injury can be challenging. Valid claims may be denied initially because the Social Security disability examiner and medical consultant elevate the importance of objective evidence so much that they fail to fully consider the subjective evidence. If is important to have a skilled disability attorney to assemble the best evidence for your case, both objective and subjective, and present it effectively to the Social Security Administration.
If you have a back injury and are not already represented by a Virginia or West Virginia Social Security disability attorney and want my evaluation, you may give me a brief description of your claim using the form to the right.
Or you may simply email or call my Winchester Virginia office.
J. David Black
Virginia and West Virginia Social Security disability attorney
Toll free: 1-866-538-0568
21 S. Loudoun St.
Winchester, Virginia 22601-5051