The role of objective medical evidence

When evaluating the intensity and persistence of your symptoms, the Social Security Administration will consider all of the available evidence.  That evidence includes your medical history, laboratory findings, statements from you, opinions of your doctors, and statements of friends or family persons about how your symptoms affect you.

Some Social Security disability judges lean heavily on objective medical evidence in rendering decisions, However, SSA says, “We do not require objective medical evidence to establish a direct cause and effect relationship between the individual’s medically determinable impairment and the intensity, persistence, or functional effects of his or her symptoms, nor do we disregard the individual’s allegations about his or her symptoms simply because the allegations are not fully corroborated by objective medical evidence.”

Phrased more directly, “We recognize that individuals with the same impairment may experience different levels of pain.”

Bottom line, objective medical evidence alone does not direct a conclusion about the intensity of your symptoms unless that decision is in your favor.

Factors that the SSA will consider when assessing severity include:

“(i) Your daily activities;

(ii) The location, duration, frequency, and intensity of your pain or other symptoms;

(iii) Precipitating and aggravating factors;

(iv) The type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication you take or have taken to alleviate your pain or other symptoms;

(v) Treatment, other than medication, you receive or have received for relief of your pain or other symptoms;

(vi) Any measures you use or have used to relieve your pain or other symptoms (e.g., lying flat on your back, standing for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, sleeping on a board, etc.); and

(vii) Other factors concerning your functional limitations and restrictions due to pain or other symptoms.”