September 29, 2016

Understanding the Social Security Disability “System”

My colleague, San Francisco California Social Security disability attorney Geri Kahn, publishes an interesting and thoughtful Social Security disability blog that I read regularly.   This past April, she published a post that should be required reading for all disability applicants.  Entitled “Four Misconceptions About the Social Security System,” Geri succinctly discusses several issues that lead to a great deal of frustration for both claimants and their attorneys.

One of the points Geri discusses really resonates with me.   She answers the question “I have back pain and cannot work so why do you recommend that I see a psychiatrist?”

Great question.

chronic pain, depression and disabilityFor years, my practice has been to add an allegation of depression and/or anxiety to every Social Security appeal I file.  In my view it would be extraordinary if anyone with a history of regular work would not be depressed and anxious if he/she:

  • no longer has a regular work routine
  • experiences financial pressure because of lack of income
  • feels a sense of worthlessness because he/she can no longer contribute (this is especially true for men)
  • recognizes that he/she will not be able to engage in social, athletic and recreational activities at pre-impairment levels
  • has to deal with stress and anxiety inherent to anyone with chronic pain
  • has to deal with disrupted and sometimes damaged family relationships
  • has to deal with physical and emotional changes associated with strong pain medications
  • experiences new medical issues associated with his/her chronic medical condition (i.e., obesity, constipation, high cholesterol, etc.)

As a disability claimant, you may not even realize the impact your back condition has had on your life.  As attorneys, we look at you as a whole person to understand more fully why you can no longer work.   Not only will such a more expansive view of your damaged health benefit your case, it may help you better understand what you are going through as well.

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 29 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.


  1. Roylee Knowles says:

    I have had back pain for years ever since I was in an auto accident as a child. I am on social security diaibility an my attoreny had to add several different problems with my claim and then we still had to go in front of the social security judge. My question is after all that why doesn’t social security cover lower back pain doctors, such as chiropractors, in the medicare program. They only allow one or two visits a year for those doctors. Chiorpratic care doesn’t fix the problem but it sure helps and there are other problems like that they don’t cover. Can someone look into just what tey cover to make it clear for those that are on medicare?

  2. Social Security considers chiropractic treatment as an “alternative” form of care. As such, chiropractic records are given very little weight in Social Security disability hearings, and, as you point out, Medicare does not cover very much chiropractic treatment.

  3. Donna Roberson says:

    I have filed disability on my own, had a bad car wreck and 3 bone fusions in 2008, I agree that the emoitions and depresion kicks in with it expecially while you are waiting on a decision, and what do you do about the bills. I have borrowed, bummed and sold things. Just recently I started a parttime job which is going to keep my income low with 20 hours a week cleaning rooms at a hotel. For the past 20 yrs, was shipping clerk and auto parts manager, so always lifted over 50 pounds all day. My case worker tells me different things all the time first she told me if I worked it would disqualify me, and I explained my bills and no family, she suggested I moved in with my kids…how ambarrasing. Then she says I could work as long as I made under 1000 now she says I can’t work again. I have had my doctors evaluation, 26th I see a phsyc doc. My biggest question, can I keep this job going until they make a decision which is close, I filed April 20th this year. And honestly 3rd day on this job and I come home bent over and drop with a bottle of pain meds. I have to make myself do it though or I’m fixing to be homeless. Another thing is my work ethics I have never took a job for just a few weeks and quit, people shouldn’t be treated that way, and If I quit cause it is killing me, I would be lucky to find a job in this small town, was lucky to find this, I have nothing left in this world except me kids are grown and living their lives and I’m so confused it does depress me. I read so many different things on this internet, and all say something different, I am in the state of florida and I guess all states have different rules, I am 45 and feel 60 went from a income of 35,000/yr to nothing because of my back, and it does depress you when finally everything I ever worked for is gone. I would love a fast and very smart lawyer, the ones in florida tell me it can take up to 1yr maybe more, how do you pay bills while waiting that long. Their answer is I don’t know. GZZZZ Who does know???? I have to keep this job and it isn’t nothing 5 hours a day and I’m doubled over. I am just waiting on the final judgement and going to cry to the judge to please let me quit, I feel my life is over. 45 should be a celebration 3rd kid finally moved out, which I supported all on my own with no welfare and no support from the dad. EVER

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