Headaches that don't go away, Pain, and Social Security Disability
I've written before about pain and the apparently inherent shortcomings in the U.S. disability system with regard to its ability to properly assign some reality-based measure of influence to pain and how it limits an individual's capacity to engage in work activity. I've also written about my experiences with pain which, fortunately, have been sporadic and acute.
Recently, I've been having some fairly severe headaches, severe in that they are intense, of long duration, and seemingly omnipresent. As in from the moment I wake up till the moment I go to sleep. Though I will see an orthopedist soon, I am fairly certain that the cause of of my headaches has everything to do with being in front of a keyboard and monitor for far too long each day. And by that I mean being rooted to my chair in a fixed position for hours at a time.
As the certified massage therapist I've recently gone to commented, "the human body neither likes nor is adapted to living like a tree".
This post is not about my headaches, however, nor is it about Boston Legal, a show that I've only now gotten to see for the first time on DVD (while I'm on the treadmill at the gym) despite the fact that its been on for years (Shatner is great in this show, so is James Spader who always chooses such interesting character roles).
This post is about insights. Insights that only pain can bring about. And insights that make us realize more fully those things we claim to know. For instance, we claim to know that pain is fatiguing and limiting. All of us, disability examiners and non-disability examiners. But...there's a huge difference between knowing this truth because it seems self-evident...and really knowing it because we are currently experiencing headaches, morning, noon, to night that will not go away.
I was speaking to my wife the other day (currently a social security office claims rep and also a former examiner like myself) and she said, "How can they expect people who have ongoing migraines to go to work?"
She said that...despite the fact that we, as former examiner cogs, know full well that people with chronic migraines are denied for disability benefits all the time. And she said that even though we know full well that the state disability agencies and all the people who work within them have very little empathy for a claimant's pain, and offer very little consideration, in a medical vocational approval sense, for pain in general. Not because they are evil people, mind you. but because the system is not codified in such as way as to allow examiners to give credence to the limiting effects of pain.
Now, what was the basic point I was trying to reach in this post. Ok, this is kind of funny, but, in dealing with my neck and head right now...I seem to have forgotten.
Doesn't matter, though, there's always something of relevance to connect to. Such as this: I think its fairly evident that one huge way in which the disability evaluation system falls down is in the attempt to objectively evaluate complaints for which there's little means to objectively quantify them.
In other words, A) pain is subjective, B) doctors have a weak response to pain, and C) the social security disability / SSI disability system often takes little notice of it.
So, in a system that has, for years, demonstrated an inability to consider claimants as little more than files and cases, a system filled with adjudicators who show little empathy for limitations that result from prolonged (perhaps years-of) pain , how can we expect----
(Here's the big jump from one topic to another; however,if you've read this blog for any appreciable length of time, you'll see that this all connects)
----the federal disability system to improve with things like...video hearings?
Think about it: one of the advantages of going to a disability hearing is that you get to meet, physically meet the decision-maker on your case.
Why is this advantageous to you, the claimant? Well, there are actually a number of reasons why cases do better at the hearing level. Disability examiners and state agencies aren't involved, administrative law judges don't have supervisors, disability representatives get to make an in-person appearance, etc.
But one factor that plays a role is that the adjudicator, in this case a judge, can't completely relegate the claimant and the claimant's case to simply being just...a file. Pretty hard to do when someone is standing there in front of you, in the flesh. Some judges may "act" as if claimants are just bits of flotsam and jetsam, but human psychology really makes it hard to completely ignore another person when they're in the same physical confines. And video hearings remove that advantage.
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