BY MICHAEL P. BOYLE, ESQ./ This past Sunday, the TV program “60 Minutes” ran a segment discussing the Social Security disability program. I must comment that I am very disappointed at the complete lack of balance in the segment.
If you watched the show, and were not well informed about how SSD actually works, you would be convinced the majority of SSD recipients are on the rolls due either to fraud or to the machinations of greedy lawyers looking to make a quick buck at the taxpayers’ expense.
One commentator stated too many claims involve “subjective” complaints — mentioning back pain and fibromyalgia as examples. Complaints involving pain in the cervical or lumbar spines can easily be verified by objective testing, particularly MRIs or CT scans. These will show the presence of herniated or bulging discs, and the extent of central-canal or neural-foraminal stenosis and nerve-root compression. No self-respecting lawyer (at least none that I know) would argue with a straight face to a hearing judge that a client be found disabled based on complaints of back pain without some objective test results that provide a basis for those complaints.
SSA acknowledges that muscle spasms, sensory or motor loss, and reduced range of motion constitute objective evidence that bolsters complaints of pain. 20 C.F.R. section 404.1529 (c)(2).
As to FM, SSA promulgated a ruling, SSR 12-2p, that addresses what an adjudicator should consider. SSA characterizes FM as a “complex medical condition characterized primarily by widespread pain in the joints, muscles, tendons, or nearby soft tissues that has persisted for at least three months.”
A licensed physician must diagnose FM and confirm the presence of symptoms consistent with criteria based on the 1990 American College of Rheumatology Criteria for the Classification of FM. These include at least 11 positive tender points on physical examination, and a history of widespread pain lasting at least three months.
That’s hardly subjective.
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