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Spinal Bifida and SSI benefits for Children

Spinal bifida is a neural tube defect (NTD) which occurs when the bones in the spinal column or the neural tube do not close around the spinal cord, allowing the spinal cord to protrude and cause damage to the nerves. This condition occurs within the first weeks of the development of the fetus.
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Children with this condition may have symptoms which range from the mild to severe. The most severe symptoms or conditions can include:

  1. Paralysis  in the feet and legs

  2. Loss of bladder control

  3. Excess fluid in the brain

  4. Learning delays

  5. Scoliosis

  6. Loss of sight

Some children may have this condition but their spinal cord does not protrude and they may not experience any health conditions. Spinal bifida occurs in one out of twenty-five hundred newborns and is one of the most common types of neural tube defects.

The cause of spinal bifida is unknown, although studies indicate that there are common factors which may contribute to this condition including diabetes, obesity, exposure to high heat during pregnancy, and seizure medication. There is also a genetic component and women who have had one child with the condition are more likely to have a second child with the same condition.

Winning Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Spinal Bifida

Supplemental Security Income or SSI is offered to disabled children who have a severe and marked impairment which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months. SSI claimants also must have VERY limited income and resources to qualify for this program so even if your child has a severe health condition if your family does not meet the income and resource level they will be denied SSI benefits, regardless of the severity of their condition. This requirement seems to be especially confusing to applicants. For more information you can review the SSA website at

Meeting a Listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments for Spinal Bifida

As mentioned above, spinal bifida can be mild or severe. Simply having this condition will not be enough to prove that your child’s condition is marked and severe. The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a listing of impairments and related symptoms which they consider automatically disabling. This list is called the SSA listing of impairments or “Blue Book.” There is an adult and child listing.

If your child has spinal bifida it will be evaluated under 101.00 Musculoskeletal System, Section 101.04 Disorders of the Spine in the SSA Blue Book.  Conditions in this listing include lysosomal disorders, metabolic disorders, vertebral osteomyelitis, vertebral fracture, and achondroplasia.  Specifically the SSA will be evaluating if your child’s condition has caused “compromise of a nerve root (including the cauda equina) or the spinal cord, with 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).”

Other symptoms such as loss of sight or severe learning disabilities may also be evaluated to determine if they are as severe as the listings in the Blue Book for those conditions. For example, blindness can be evaluated under 102.00 Special Senses and Speech.

So what is the bottom line? Simply having spinal bifida will not be enough to guarantee your child will be awarded SSI benefits. You will need significant medical evidence to prove that your child’s condition is a severe as the listing in the SSA Blue Book.
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