Written by: Luis R. Gracia, Esq.
There is a popular saying that goes, “Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease”. Speaking as a Social Security attorney, there is a lot of truth to that old adage and it is certainly applicable to many Social Security Disability claims. This is because, when an individual claims that he/she is disabled, Social Security regulations state that those adjudicating the claim have to consider the claimant’s ability to perform work-like activities given his or her physical and/or mental limitations. This is known as a disability claimant’s “residual functional capacity”. As a result of the regulations, the Social Security Administration will examine one’s limitations and more specifically, their cause. It is in this evaluation where medication side effects come into play.
Medical conditions can cause a wide variety of symptoms, many of which may not be significant to cause functional limitations (a condition that causes a disability claimant to be limited in the work they can perform). Other conditions, however, may cause symptoms strong enough that only equally strong medication(s) can be used to control them. Unfortunately, many medications carry with them undesirable, yet common side effects.
The question, then, is what happens if a person’s symptoms are controlled with medications (and the limitations caused by those symptoms are no longer a major problem) but the side effects result in limitations as strong as the ones caused by the original symptoms? The answer is clear: Social Security will have to consider those side effects and the limitations they cause because, just as the original symptoms, they have an impact on a person’s residual functional capacity. Let’s look at back pain as an example. Back pain may result in a person’s inability to sit, walk, stand and carry objects for a reasonable period of time. In order to control the pain, doctors may prescribe a strong, narcotic medication. What often happens is that, although the medication will bring down or eliminate the level of pain, its side effects may significantly compromise the person’s ability to work. For instance, if the medication causes severe drowsiness, the individual may have trouble paying attention, concentrating, keeping up with their workflow or following instructions properly. In more serious cases, like ones involving cancer, the side effects associated with chemotherapy can have a devastating effect on a person’s ability to function. As a result,Social Security will have to evaluate those side effects and weigh them accordingly to determine whether or not they limit their ability to work.
In light of all this, it is important to remember one thing: If one of your prescribed drugs makes you tired, overly drowsy or sleepy, too emotional or even irrational, unable to drive, unable to concentrate or think clearly, or unable to remember things, this can have an impact on your claim for Social Security Disability benefits! Medication side effects that prevent you from working are as important as the symptoms that trigger the need for the medication(s) in the first place.
Rue and Ziffra are Social Security Disability attorneys proudly serving areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg.
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