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Long Term Disability: Don’t Ignore Severe Headaches

Published on September 19, 2014 by

Everyone gets a headache now and then. For most of us, they mean little more than taking aspirin and waiting for the annoyance to go away. But for an unfortunate few, that’s not what happens.

These are people who suffer from regular headaches which often are so strong that they can’t work while they’re dealing with them. Bright lights, loud sounds, and other triggers can set off a wave of extreme, debilitating pain. But even with these kinds of symptoms, many people struggling with severe headaches simply soldier on because our society says that headaches aren’t a big deal.

If this sounds like what you’re going through, don’t ignore it – talk to a doctor to figure out what’s going on. And if you really can’t work because of what you’re going through, talk to an experienced disability attorney to see if you qualify for benefits.

Treatment for Severe Headaches

Just like chronic pain, severe headaches aren’t associated with any one specific disability. This makes it harder to get disability benefits if headaches are the main symptom you can point to, but there are ways that you can help your cause.

The most important thing to do is work with your doctor to try to figure out what’s causing them. You may end up needing to take a CT scan, see a neurologist, or even look into potential environmental factors to discover the cause.

When working with your doctor, you should be as specific as possible about the issues you experience with your headaches. What does the pain feel like? Where is it located? Do you feel nauseous or vomit when you get a headache? Are you sensitive to noises or light?

Depending on your specific situation, your treatment may involve a variety of things. Some doctors end up recommending prescription medications. Others seek out trigger sources to remove. And still others may opt for injections. There are even patients who end up requiring treatment from emergency facilities.

Severe Headaches and Disability Benefits

Whatever you do to seek help, make sure that you maintain a record. All of those visits to your doctor and the emergency room will go a long way towards proving you need help if you decide to apply for medical disability benefits. You should even keep your own records by writing a headache diary that details the frequency, severity, and duration of your headaches. This diary can be written out by hand, typed, or even logged into one of a variety of apps that have been popping up in recent years. The important thing isn’t how you do it, but that you do it.

Make sure that your doctor sees this diary frequently so that the information is entered into official records. The more “proof” you have and the more detailed you are, the easier it will be for you to explain why your headaches keep you from doing your job, and the less likely it is that you will have a claim denied.

Want the latest long term disability info and tips on winning your claim? Follow our disability blog and be sure to download a copy of our free e-book!




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Social Security Disability: Musculoskeletal Issue Diagnosis

Published on September 17, 2014 by

In my previous two posts, I have defined musculoskeletal disorders and described “loss of function,” but still haven’t delved into what you have to show to the SSA in order to get the benefits for your disability that you need to live as normally as possible.

As you might imagine, there are a number of steps involved to get a monthly disability check. The first one is to actually receive a clinical diagnosis for a covered musculoskeletal impairment. How do you go about doing this?

Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis

Since you need a medical diagnosis, you’re going to have to set up an appointment with a doctor so that he or she can examine you and make a determination. While treatment from your primary physician can be helpful, you may also wish to visit someone with medical expertise in musculoskeletal conditions. Specialists in this field of medicine include orthopedics, neurologists, neuropsychologist and rheumatologists . Treating physicians in these kinds of cases will likely:

  • Write descriptions of your joints
  • Determine your range of motion
  • Check musculature for atrophy or weakness
  • Look for changes to your reflexes or senses
  • Note circulatory deficits
  • Run sophisticated diagnostic testing

Physical examinations should include all neurological, orthopedic, and rheumatological findings related to the issue being evaluated, and will be based on objective observation. Since physical symptoms in these kinds of cases can come and go, you will need to have your doctor test you on multiple occasions over a period of time. In this way, you can show that the symptoms you’re suffering from are reoccurring.

In addition to this examination where doctors use their medical knowledge and training to make a determination, they will also include findings from laboratory tests. These types of tests include things like x-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, radio nuclear bone scans, and myelography.

All of these types of tests can be useful in helping the SSA to make a determination, but you should know what you are getting into. MRIs and CAT scans are quite expensive, for example, and myelograms can be risky and invasive. And while the clinical diagnosis can be established in part by electrodiagnostic procedures, be aware that these don’t meet the requirements for alternative criteria.


This doesn’t even cover spinal examinations, which we’re going to go over in detail in our next blog post because they are so specific. Have more Social Security questions that you want answered now? Download our free eBook on SSD benefits.

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Long Term Disability: Proving Chronic Pain

Published on September 12, 2014 by

If you have chronic, disabling pain that prevents you from doing your job, it’s something that should help you to qualify for  long term disability. In fact, a number of cases have reaffirmed this position and said that insurance companies and doctors can’t just ignore a person’s pain when deciding whether or not they are actually disabled and deserving of benefits.

For anyone out there suffering, this is good news. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as straightforward as saying, “my pain keeps coming back and I can’t work – give me the help I need!” What makes proving chronic pain so tricky?

The Disability Issues Inherent to Chronic Pain

Severe chronic pain is complicated in disability cases for a number of related reasons.

Unlike many other symptoms that can be easily pinpointed as the effects of specific disabilities, chronic pain is something that can occur due to a number of medical conditions: fibromyalgia, neuropathy, degenerative disc disease, and failed back surgeries are just a few. Because there’s no definitive way of telling what is causing the pain, it can be difficult to connect it to a disability (which means insurance companies often try to leave chronic pain out of a long term disability claim).

Related to the inability to connect chronic pain to a specific disability is the fact that it’s not something that shows up in any objective medical tests. Things like MRIs, x-rays, and CT scans may be able to prove that there’s a break or a tear, but they don’t quantify the actual pain that someone might be feeling, which is something that differs from person to person.

Put both of these things together and it allows insurance companies to argue that claimants are lying about – or at least exaggerating – the pain that they are feeling in order to get benefits. As insulting as this may be to someone dealing with debilitating pain, it’s a part of the process you’re likely to face if that’s the most significant symptom of your disability.

Make Chronic Pain Work for Your Case

The way around this issue is to do what you’re probably already doing anyway: try to make the pain go away. Claimants who can show that they have repeatedly sought out help to deal with their pain can use that fact to bolster their cases because they have a record to prove that something is going on.

After all, most reasonable people aren’t going to willingly submit themselves to doctors over and over – often racking up big medical bills – just so they can scam their insurance company. A record of seeking out help for your pain is proof that it’s real and it’s serious, and insurers have to pay attention to it.

Want the latest long term disability info and tips on winning your claim? Follow our disability blog and be sure to download a copy of our free e-book!

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Social Security Questions: Musculoskeletal Loss of Function

Published on September 10, 2014 by

In my previous post, I discussed the Social Security Administration’s definitions of the elements of disabling musculoskeletal disorders. Now that you understand what musculoskeletal disorders are, it’s time to delve into what it’s going to take for you to qualify for disability benefits from Social Security. One of the most important Social Security questions to ask when it comes to this type of disability is: are you suffering from a “loss of function”?

What does that mean? The SSA defines a loss of function for musculoskeletal disorders as “the inability to ambulate effectively on a sustained basis for any reason… or the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively on a sustained basis for any reason.” In layman’s terms, this means you either have a lot of trouble walking and getting around or have trouble doing things like grasping, reaching, pulling, pushing, and fingering; basically, the things that most people need to be able to do not just to work a regular full-time job, but also to take care of themselves on a daily basis. Beyond simply having one or both of these issues on a temporary basis, it has to be something that lasts (or will last) for 12 months or longer.

Where Does Pain Factor In?

For many suffering from musculoskeletal impairments, the issue isn’t that they literally can’t walk or use their arms, hands, and fingers. Rather, it’s that doing so causes them pain so intolerable that they just can’t bear to do it for any sustained amount of time.

While pain isn’t something the SSA considers as an impairment on its own, and it’s difficult to prove since there is no objective test that effectively measures pain, a good disability firm knows that it can be a vital factor when deciding whether or not to award benefits. The key is to connect the pain with impairments that are objectively medically determinable and have been found to cause other individuals pain as well. Those suffering from pain as a primary symptom should keep a pain diary and work with their physician to maintain an official record.

Of course, it’s all well and good to know what musculoskeletal disorders and “loss of function” are – if you hope to receive disability benefits, you’re going to need to know how the SSA decides whether you qualify or not. Next time we’ll delve into Social Security questions on diagnosis and determination. Until then, check out The Social Security Disability Puzzle, our free eBook.

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