Social Security Disability and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Is RSD a Disability?

We have a client who has been diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). This is also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).  RSD is a unique clinical syndrome that may develop following trauma. Claimants with RSD typically report burning, aching, or searing pain at the site of the trauma. Furthermore, this can then spread to other limbs or parts of the body. Our claimant is a 30-year-old woman who fractured her finger playing football. She had surgery on the finger but it never healed properly. Furthermore, her hand started to swell and tingle. She also had a burning, searing pain. Firstly in the injured hand. Secondly in her other, non-injured hand. Thereafter she developed symptoms all over her body including both her lower extremities. The pain and spasms are so bad that both her feet contract inward during an episode. Furthermore, making it extremely difficult for her to walk.

The Disability Lawyers with the  San Diego Disability Law Group analyze each case according to the sequential evaluation process. Which is applied to all initial Social Security insurance claims and all adult SSI claims i.e. 1) Is the claimant presently engaged in substantial gainful activity; 2) Does the claimant have a severe impairment; 3) Does the impairment meet or equal a listed impairment; 4) Does the impairment prevent the claimant from performing past relevant work and 5) Does the impairment prevent the performance of other work? Furthermore taking into consideration the claimant’s age, education and prior work experience.

What to do with RSD and how to proceed

The Social Security Administration publishes a Listing of Impairments with medical evidence requirements which, if met, are conclusive of SSD. Sometimes, a severe condition like RSD is not listed in the Listing of Impairments. However it can be addressed in a Social Security Policy Interpretation Ruling.  In preparing this case,  the Disability Lawyers at the San Diego Disability  Law Group referenced SSR 03-02P ” EVALUATING REFLEX SYMPATHETIC DYSTROPHY SYNDROME/COMPLEX REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME”.

SSR 03-02P acknowledges that RSD/CRPS is a chronic pain syndrome. Furthermore it most often results from trauma to a single extremity. Furthermore, that patients typically report persistent, burning, aching or searing pain that is initially localized to the site of the injury. Moreover, the degree of pain is often out of proportion to the severity of the precipitating injury. Furthermore, in some cases there have been reports that progress and spread to other limbs, or to remote parts of the body.

The Social Security Act defines “disability” as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. The act also requires that the impairment result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.

SSR 03-02P Continued and Beyond

SSR 03-02P states that, for purposes of Social Security disability evaluation, RSD/CRPS can be established in the presence of persistent complaints of pain that are typically out of proportion to the severity of any documented precipitant and one or more of the following clinically documented signs in the affected region at any time following the documented precipitant: 1) Swelling; 2) Autonomic instability i.e. changes in skin color or texture, changes in sweating(decreased or excessive sweating); 3) changes is skin temperature; 4)Abnormal hair or nail growth;  5) Osteoporosis; or 6) involuntary movements of the affected region of the initial injury.

The Disability Attorneys with the San Diego Disability  Law Group know that it is important in RSD/CRPS cases to present longitudinal treatment records that document the above-referenced criteria in order to make the strongest case possible for RSD/CRPS claimants.

As a claimant with  RSD/CRPS it is extremely important for you to continually tell treating doctors about your symptoms. Furthermore, you should tell them the effect your symptoms have on your activities of daily living. Finally, make sure you stress how it affects your ability to function. Develop a longitudinal medical record that clearly documents your RSD/CRPS symptoms. Documenting your symptoms will enable your Disability Lawyer to present the best claim possible. RSD/CRPS is a disabling condition and needs to be treated/accommodated for accordingly.

If you or any friend or family member has a Social Security Disability benefits, claim, or question, contact the Disability Attorneys at the San Diego Disability Law Group for a free consultation, or call us at 619-338-9000.