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Technically, when seeking Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits, you are not required to have objective evidence to establish your disability. Otherwise, a person with medical conditions such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome would never qualify for SSD benefits.
As a practical matter, without objective evidence, Social Security makes it very difficult to get approved for SSD benefits. When an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) assesses a claimant’s credibility, they are required to determine if there is a medical condition that could reasonably produce the symptoms that limits the claimant’s ability to work.
Headaches can cause pain, and can result in becoming unable to work on a full time basis. However, it is difficult to establish disability due to headaches because the ALJ will ask what evidence shows you actually have headaches, and are not simply making it up.
I represent a former 59 year old nursing assistant who had to stop working because of headaches. ALJ Weiss indicated that he agreed that the claimant’s 32 year work history supported that she was credible regarding her ability to work. However, a Medical Expert (“ME”) rejected many of the conclusions of the treating physicians.
Besides treating with a pain management specialist for headaches, the claimant had been treating with a neurologist. The neurologist concluded that the claimant was disabled by migraine headaches. In addition, the neurologist had sent the claimant for an MRI of the brain, which revealed abnormalities consistent with migraines according to the radiologist who performed the MRI.
Surprised by ME Pierko’s opinion, ALJ Weiss confirmed that Pierko was aware of the MRI. He even pointed out that this was a somewhat unusual case in that there was objective evidence, the MRI, to explain the etiology for the headaches. Pierko could not explain why she would not change her opinion regarding this issue.
ALJ Weiss rejected the ME’s opinion about the claimant’s headaches. There may well have been a different outcome if the claimant’s work history was not as strong. ALJ Weiss may have accepted the ME’s opinion without the MRI, which illustrates the difficulty getting SSD benefits without any objective evidence.Previous Next
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