Report: MRI, Other Imaging Exams Grow 10 Percent Each Year

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Allsup explains role of diagnostic tests when seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, including for those with chronic pain

Because SSDI is a medically based program, an MRI of the brain with the highest resolution and clarity possible can be an important piece of the documentation needed when applying for Social Security disability benefits.

A new study finds the number of MRIs and other diagnostic imaging in the U.S. has increased 10 percent annually, pointing to the importance of diagnostic tests in medical treatment and documenting disability, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance(SSDI) representation and Medicare plan selection services.

Medical records of up to 2 million patients per year were studied from 1996 to 2010. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published the analysis on the use of diagnostic imaging. The report found that patients underwent an average of one imaging examination per year, with one-third being advanced diagnostic imaging tests such as MRIs or CT scans.

The rise in the use of these important diagnostic tools underscores the pivotal role they can play when compiling medical evidence to support a Social Security Disability Insurance claim, said David Bueltemann, manager of senior claimant representatives at Allsup. “MRIs, for example, can provide qualitative evidence of specific defects associated with chronic pain conditions,” he said.

Social Security Disability Insurance is a federally mandated insurance program that taxpayers and their employers fund through payroll taxes. The Social Security Administration oversees the program, which has stringent requirements in order to be determined disabled. It is designed to provide monthly benefits to those who have experienced a severe disability and cannot work for 12 months or longer, or who have a terminal condition.

Social Security Disability and Chronic Pain
When seeking SSDI for chronic pain conditions, specific imaging test results can reveal physical changes to the body as well as neurological changes to the brain. “Certain types of MRIs can reveal physical differences or atrophy in the affected part of the body,” Bueltemann said.

One example is the use of brain MRIs when documenting conditions such as fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. “Because SSDI is a medically based program, an MRI of the brain with the highest resolution and clarity possible can be an important piece of the documentation needed when applying for Social Security disability benefits,” Bueltemann said.

Someone with chronic pain seeking Social Security disability benefits should consider the following tips, Bueltemann said.

  • Seek ongoing, specialized care. Chronic pain issues, if severe enough to affect activities of daily living, may be outside the scope of a family physician, Bueltemann said. “A specialist may be required to thoroughly evaluate and direct treatment and management of the impairment,” he said, adding that regular treatment is important in the Social Security Disability Insurance process. “This is because evidence from treating physicians should be assigned the most weight.”
  • Consider neuropsychological testing. It also may be important to seek neuropsychological testing with a chronic pain condition. “While these can be long and sometimes tiring appointments, the resulting reports can provide important information that is considered by the SSA,” Bueltemann said.
  • Include a third person. Someone experiencing chronic pain and related effects may have trouble explaining and recognizing the deficits from their condition, Bueltemann said. “You have the option of including third-party reports from a spouse, relative or friend. Providing these to your doctor can help with your treatment and also further document the effects of your impairment,” he said.
  • Follow your doctor’s treatment plan. “The SSDI program has strict requirements,” Bueltemann said. “By following through with the treatment your doctor has provided, you can help ensure your claim doesn’t have credibility concerns when it’s reviewed by the SSA.”

In addition, applicants with an experienced Social Security disability representative such as Allsup can improve their chances for an SSDI award earlier in the adjudication and review process.

More resources and a live chat about living with chronic pain will be available at the Allsup True Help® Disability Web Expo, September 27, 2012. Register today at

To determine if you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, call the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to or visit Allsup on Facebook at

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Rebecca Ray
Allsup, Inc.
(800) 854-1418 65065
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Tai Venuti
Allsup, Inc.
(800) 854-1418 68573
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