Degenerative conditions affecting spinal discs and vertebral fractures are just some of the many possible sources of spine-related aches and pains. While 90 percent of the population will experience discomfort of this nature at one time or another, many people respond well to appropriate treatment. However, if your spine disorder is affecting your ability to work, you may need to apply for disability benefits. Here’s how.
The Social Security Administration uses a guide called the Blue Book to determine if a condition is one that qualifies for disability benefits. There’s no specific listing for back pain, but it does list a number of conditions that could contribute to back or neck pain, including rheumatoid arthritis. Section 1.04 of this guide also covers spinal disorders that include:
• Spinal arachnoiditis – An inflammation of nerves around the spinal cord that can cause burning pain and the need to regularly shift
• Lumbar spinal stenosis – Abnormal spinal narrowing that can affect the ability to walk or stand for long periods
• Nerve compression – Irritation or compression of nerves near the spine that can affect reflexes and range of motion
Regardless of what’s causing your spine pain, you’ll need to show it’s related to an inability to work because of associated limitations. This process typically involves obtaining the following documentation:
• Physicians’ notes
• An assessment from a spine specialist
• Results from X-rays, CT scans, and other tests that show evidence of your disorder
• Statements from supervisors and/or coworkers discussing how your ability to work has changed since your spine disorder developed
• Copies of surgical reports if you had surgery because of your spinal issue
• Doctors’ notes from before and after surgery to show if there was any improvement
If a condition that could be responsible for your spine-related discomfort isn’t listed in the Blue Book, you may qualify for the medical-vocational allowance. With this approach to applying for disability, you’ll need to file the residual functioning capacity (RFC) form. For the medical-vocational allowance, the following factors are considered:
• The nature of your condition and your symptoms
• Your limitations
• Age and education level
• Transferable skills and work-related experience
It’s common for the RFC form to also include input from medical professionals documenting such things as an inability to stand for long periods, side effects related to medications or your condition, and anything that could affect the ability to return to work or seek gainful employment. If it’s determined you’ll likely remain unable to perform meaningful work-related tasks for at least a year, you may be approved for disability benefits.
Most claims for disability, including ones for spine disorders, are denied during initial reviews, which is why it’s advised that you work with a disability lawyer to help with the filing and, if your claim is denied, the appeal process. A lawyer can also determine if there’s any additional information you’ll need from your doctor or Beverly Hills spine surgeon to increase your odds of receiving benefits.
The expert spine surgeons at The Spine Institute Center can determine if you have a spine disorder and decide on the most effective plans for treatment. We specialize in spinal fusion surgery as well as fusion alternatives like Mobi-C artificial cervical disc replacement, Coflex surgery, and dynamic stabilization. Call 310-828-7757 today to learn more and to schedule a consultation.