Experienced North Carolina disability lawyer knows what evidence is needed to prove the disabling effects of your symptoms

All of my southwestern North Carolina Social Security disability clients share one thing in common: their symptoms disrupt their daily lives to such an extent that they cannot work. Regardless of their diagnosis, my clients are concerned about and are disabled by their symptoms – pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, insomnia, tremors, etc.

While you may be able to describe your symptoms in detail, the Social Security Administration requires more than that. In evaluating your symptoms, the Social Security Administration considers two levels of evidence.

First level of review: objective medical evidence

At the outset, the Social Security Administration decision-maker looks for “objective medical evidence” of your symptoms. “Objective medical evidence” is the type of evidence typically found in your medical records, and includes medical signs, laboratory findings, test results and other evidence that can be documented reliably. The question to be answered is this: Does the objective medical evidence demonstrate that a “medically determinable impairment” could cause the symptoms you claim to have? At this first level of review, objective medical evidence is mandatory; without this, your claim for North Carolina Social Security disability benefits will fail.

Second level of review: all evidence, as a whole

Once the Social Security Administration is satisfied that a medically determinable impairment could cause your alleged symptoms, it will move on to consider the “intensity, persistence, or functionally limiting effects” of your symptoms. At this second level of review, the decision maker must take into account all the evidence in the record, as a whole – the objective evidence, as well as subjective evidence, which includes your statements and the statements of witnesses in your favor. The question to be answered is this: Is the extent to which you claim to be disabled by your symptoms consistent with the evidence as a whole?

Best evidence: your testimony

In most North Carolina Social Security disability cases, the best evidence of the nature of your symptoms will be your testimony at a hearing before an administrative law judge. To be at your persuasive best, you must provide detailed examples of how your symptoms limit your ability to function. For example, if pain is your major symptom, your testimony should answer the following questions:

  • What is the intensity of your pain, on a scale of 1-10?
  • What triggers the pain?
  • What helps to alleviate the pain?
  • Where is the pain centered?
  • Does it travel from one part of your body to another?
  • Is the pain constant or does it come and go?
  • What activities are you no longer able to enjoy because of the pain?
  • Hour-by-hour, how does the pain impact your typical daily routine?