Buffalo Law Review

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States have historically failed to recognize chronic pain as a disability. In medicine, chronic pain has gained increasing recognition as a disability in and of itself, even absent a current, medically determinable physical impairment. The law, however, has been slow to catch up. This Article argues that chronic pain is a disability, even without medical evidence of an underlying impairment, because of pain’s significant functional impact on the body and mind. In the 2018 case of Saunders v. Wilkie, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recognized that “pain is enough” for a veteran to be eligible for disability compensation, even when the claimant is unable to establish a current, underlying cause of their pain. This Article argues that Saunders is an important first step in judicial recognition that chronic pain is a disability, and that disability benefit programs should recognize and compensate chronic pain for the disabling condition that it is.