How does Social Security evaluate my statements about my disability to do full time work

When the Social Security Administration makes a determination about whether or not a particular diagnosis or impairment would prevent an individual from performing substantial and gainful employment, they often need to rely upon the statements of a claimant about how the impairments affect their work ability.  A claimant’s credibility can make or break a claim, especially if medical records alone can’t demonstrate that a problem is disabling. To assess credibility, the SSA may assess and compare the following factors:

  • The objective medical evidence
  • Statements by treating physicians about a person’s condition and prognosis.
  • Statements made by a claimant or people who know the claimant, (particularly past employers and doctors) that describe how symptoms impacted the ability to work, the attempts a claimant has made at working, and any treatments, and how well the claimant did, or did not, respond to them.

In addition to these, the Social Security Administration will also consider a claimant’s

  1. Activities of daily living or the types of things that they are able to do in their everyday life and whether or not that level of activity would be compatible with work.
  2. Pain and other symptoms, including where the pain and other symptoms are located, the intensity of the pain and how long and how often the pain or other symptoms occur.
  3. What factors cause or increase the pain or other symptoms.
  4. The medications a person takes and how well they work.  They will also consider side effects.
  5. Anything else that a person must do to relieve pain or other symptoms.  These things would include modifying or restricting activities, changing positions often, using canes, a walker, braces or other assistive devices, elevating feet or legs, etc…
  6. How often you visit a doctor to obtain relief from pain or other symptoms,
  7. Any other facts that explain or detail a person’s pain or other symptoms.


Medical records documenting medical treatment are the most important element of a disability claim.  The Social Security Administration needs records to be able to understand and analyze a person’s disability.  Records documenting the efforts a person has taken to alleviate symptoms are also an important factor in determining credibility. This means that SSA will be more inclined to believe a person’s statement about his or her pain if the records indicate a long-term effort at finding a successful treatment. If an individual has consulted with physicians, attempted multiple medications and treatments, tried other relieving factors such as therapy, or chiropractor care or physical therapy and the condition remains disabling they will be deemed more credible than an individual who has made no attempt to obtain relief.


An important factor in determining whether a person’s statements are credible is the consistency of the statements throughout the medical record and to the SSA. For example, if a person tells the SSA that he cannot walk more than a block without resting, yet the record indicates the claimant routinely hikes or attends events which require significant standing or walking, the claimant’s credibility will be damaged. Another example is if the claimant tells the SSA that she cannot sit for more than a few minutes at a time without pain, yet the SSA interviewer observes no discomfort in the claimant during an hour-long interview process, a claimant’s credibility may be questioned.

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