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Evaluating Symptoms in Disability Claims for Individuals in Pennsylvania

Receiving treatment for symptoms that have rendered you unable to work is critical to a successful Social Security claim. When evaluating a potential disability, the first step is to examine whether there is a medically determinable impairment that can be expected to cause the symptoms at issue.

The Social Security Administration has set forth their methods of evaluating symptoms and what they consider a symptom. In detail, this Social Security Ruling states what will be considered a symptom of an impairment, regardless of whether it is pain, dizziness, fatigue, or another symptom. An individual’s statements are not enough to establish a physical or mental impairment or a disability.

Evaluating symptoms of a disability involves a two-step process, first assessing whether there is an underlying medically determinable impairment that could produce the symptoms. Objective medical evidence must establish that the symptoms are due to a medical impairment. The regulations make clear that alleged symptoms alone will not form the basis of a disability.

If objective medical evidence does not support a “fully favorable decision,” the administration will look at other evidence regarding the persistence and limiting effects of an individual’s symptoms. These other sources may be medical or non-medical, as is the case with public and private agencies.

The factors that the administration assesses include how the impairment affects daily activities, the type of treatment that has been received, and other issues that have aggravated the symptoms, as well as other factors.

When evaluating statements made by an individual concerning their symptoms, the Administration will assess whether those statements are consistent with the record. Statements that are consistent with the evidence may support a determination that the symptoms have reduced the ability to work. The rules make clear that even inconsistent statements do not necessarily mean they are inaccurate because symptoms do vary in persistence and intensity.

In the event that an individual has not pursued treatment, the rules make clear that the Administration will look at whether religious beliefs proscribe treatment, or if over-the-counter medications helped reduce symptoms. Assessing treatment history is critical to understanding whether the symptoms indicate there is a reduced capacity to work.

Finally, when stating that an individual’s statements have been considered in regulations for evaluating symptoms, the rules require there to be specific reasons for the weight given to particular symptoms. The five-step process for adjudicating a claim for benefits follows a sequential evaluation process. This detailed process is conducted by adjudicators who are required to base their findings solely on evidence within the case record.

Before submitting an application for Social Security disability benefits, it is important to set forth a strong claim by ensuring that all of the medical evidence is carefully documented and supportive of symptoms relating to an impairment. The Social Security lawyers at Needle Law can help you by providing personal attention and skilled legal representation as you apply for benefits. To set up a free consultation with a dedicated Social Security attorney, call our office at 570-344-1266 or complete our online form.

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