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Degenerative Disc Disease and SSA Disability Benefits

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="275" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]The spine shown here with spinal cord.[/caption]

Severe back conditions are one of the most common disabling health conditions listed by claimants on their SSDI or SSI applications. The Social Security Administration does provide disability benefits for some types of severe back conditions such as Degenerative Disc Disease but winning benefits can be difficult. Claimants will need to either meet a listing in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments (also known as the Blue Book) or prove that do not have the residual capacity to work through the medical vocational allowance process.

Winning SSA Disability Benefits for Degenerative Disc Disease


Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common back conditions. It occurs when the spongy discs that are in the spine begin to deteriorate, leading to varying degrees of pain and disability. One of the complicating factors for this disease is that almost everyone will have some degree of disc degeneration as they age.

Other conditions can also result from changes in an individual’s spinal discs as they age including disc herniation, spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis. Discs are located throughout the spine and any disc failure can cause shooting and radiating pain in the back, neck, arms and legs. Additional symptoms can include tingling, numbness and lack of bowel control.

Why is the spine so important?


Anyone who has a severe back condition knows that it can be completely debilitating. Back issues can severely limit your ability to walk, twist, lift, bend, carry objects, raise your arms and sit for long periods of time.

Winning SSA Disability Benefits for Degenerative Disc Disease by meeting an SSA Listing


Although degenerative disc disease will be evaluated under Listing 1.00 Musculoskeletal System, Section 1.04 Disorders of the Spine what most claimants will find is that, although they may have been diagnosed with this condition, it is likely that they will not have symptoms which “meet or equal” this listing and their SSDI or SSI claim will be denied.

What evidence does the SSA need to approve your condition through a listing?


The SSA listing states claimants need:

“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).

If you do not have these conditions you will need to have 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 2 hours. Other claimants can show they have 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 ambulate effectively.”

What does this really mean? Your condition will have to be extremely severe and you will have to have trouble completing your daily activities without help. Why? Because you have to have assistance walking, maybe with the assistance of a walking device and this device negates the use of your arms.

What are other limitations the SSA will look for? The inability to walk at a normal pace and use your hands and arms to carry out your normal daily activities such as grasping, pulling, lifting and pushing.

So what does this mean for you? If you have mild disc degeneration with few limitations this will not be enough to win benefits. You must prove that either the pain or the symptoms of your severe back condition are so limiting you meet the listings as defined above.
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