Back and Spine Disabilities
The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers a number of conditions severe enough to prevent you from working. Regardless of the condition, all are subject to evaluation and must meet certain criteria to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Though most conditions listed by the SSA as disabling are permanent or are expected to result in death, those that are not require evidence showing that the condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year. Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin’s dedicated SSD lawyers are here to help and support you during this time.
A herniated disc, classified by the SSA as a “herniated nucleus pulposus,” can be extremely painful and result in diminished quality of life.
The vertebrae in your back—those are the bones that form your spine—are separated by soft, flexible discs. These discs protect your vertebrae and keep them from mashing into one another. If one of these discs gets damaged, either through trauma or simple wear and tear, the disc may break open. This is what is referred to as a herniated or slipped disc.
Are Disc Herniations Considered a Disability?
A herniated or slipped disc is considered a disabling condition by the SSA and may qualify you for either SSD or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits dependent on the condition and your age. The SSA will evaluate a herniated disc based on an examination of the spine and will usually include a test of the following:
- Deep tendon reflexes
- Determination of nerve root damage (every vertebrae has a nerve root; when damaged, the result is either serious pain or loss of sensation)
- How much pain the herniated disc is causing and where the pain is felt
- Incidence of muscle spasms
- Range of motion
- Signs of tension
Degenerative Disc Disease
Not actually a disease, degenerative disc disease is a condition that results when the intervertebral discs in the back begin to degenerate. This is a normal part of aging, but for some people, degenerated discs can result in chronic pain and limited mobility.
Spinal discs—soft, compressible discs that separate the vertebrae in the spine—help absorb shock so the spine can properly move. There is very little blood supply to spinal discs, so once a disc is injured it can’t repair itself. It may be able to function properly after the injury, but many discs begin to degenerate. The degenerated disc results in less padding between vertebrae and causes the spine to lose stability.
Degenerative disc disease can take place throughout the spine, but it most often occurs in the discs in the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region).
How the SSA Evaluates Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is considered a disabling condition by the SSA and may qualify you for either SSD or SSI benefits dependent on the condition and your age. As degenerative disc disease affects the musculoskeletal system, it is classified with other conditions that are caused by infectious, inflammatory, or degenerative processes, traumatic or developmental events, or neoplastic, vascular, or toxic/metabolic diseases.
This condition is evaluated by the SSA based on your evidence of disc herniation, back pain, lumbar problems, spinal stenosis, or degenerative joint disease. The SSA will need records—such as x-rays, CAT scans, and/or MRI scans—from your healthcare provider. You also will need to provide documentation of all other related clinical records, symptoms, and prescribed treatments and responses.
Because each instance of degenerative disc disease is different, contact one of our SSD benefit attorneys to discuss the details of your claim.
Social Security Disability for Back Pain
Back pain and other disorders of the spine can affect the lower back, middle back, or upper back. Common back pain causes include muscular and nerve problems, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis.
Back pain is considered a disabling condition by the SSA and may qualify you for either SSD or SSI benefits dependent on the condition and your age. As back pain affects the musculoskeletal system, it is classified with other conditions that may result from hereditary, congenital, or acquired pathologic processes. Impairments may result from infectious, inflammatory, or degenerative processes, traumatic or developmental events, or neoplastic, vascular, or toxic/metabolic diseases.
3 Types of Back Pain That Qualify for SSD Benefits
According to the SSA, back pain is considered disabling if it meets one of three criteria:
- Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine)
- Spinal arachnoiditis, confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every two hours
- Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, and resulting in inability to walk effectively
SSD Benefits for Back and Spine Disabilities
If you have a diagnosed back or spine condition that causes you to not be able to work and your claim for Social Security Disability benefits was denied, contact us. The experienced SSD lawyers at Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin offer the No Fee Guarantee® and you won’t owe any lawyers’ fees unless you win your case. That means you can get the strong legal advocate you need without worrying about cost. Call us 24/7 at (866) 684-3388 or fill out our free online form to get in touch with one of our local SSD attorneys today.