Aren’t opinions about an individual’s ability to perform sustained work activities rather subjective?

Yes. The Social Security Administration recognizes that disability benefit claimants are limited by symptoms, which are subjective and difficult to measure. Clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques do not provide objective measures of symptoms. The Social Security Administration may consult a doctor for opinions on the following:

  • the severity and nature of the patient’s symptoms;
  • what the patient is still able to do despite his or her impairments;
  • the patient’s physical or mental limitations.

Determining what work an individual can still perform requires professional judgment. First, a doctor must evaluate whether the patient’s symptoms can be reasonably attributed to a medical diagnosis. Second, a doctor must determine whether a patient’s claimed limitations are evidently consistent with the medical signs and findings. Our Tennessee disability lawyers are available to describe these procedures in greater detail to you.

In deciding if claimed limitations are reasonable for a particular patient, does the Social Security Administration use an average person standard?

No. The Social Security Administration does not utilize an “average man” test. Instead, it acknowledges that symptoms can limit some patients in different ways than they do others. As an example, the Social Security Administration describes someone with a low back disorder who may be capable of sustained medium-difficulty work activity, while another person with the same disorder may not be capable of work more difficult than light work on a sustained basis due to pain. As some people have less tolerance for pain or may be less able to cope with an impairment, individual differences will be taken into account.

Contact our Tennessee Social Security disability lawyers for more information.