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SSI and Spinal Stenosis

Can I get SSDI or SSI for Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis occurs if a SSDI or SSI claimant’s spine begins to narrow, compressing the spinal cord. Claimants with this condition can have symptoms including:

  1. Lumbar vertebra showing spinal stenosis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  2. Pain and numbness in their neck

  3. Pain and numbness in their shoulder, arms or legs

  4. Loss of coordination due to muscle weakness

  5. Lack of sensation in their legs, arms, fingers or toes

  6. Severe issues with bowel or bladder function

  7. Severe pain

  8. Limited range of motion

Spinal stenosis is one of several severe back condition including degenerative disc disease, arthritis, nerve damage or disc herniation which may cause pain and other severe symptoms which make it difficult for claimants to perform substantial gainful activity.

Winning SSDI or SSI Benefits for Spinal Stenosis

The Social Security Administration will determine if a claimant is disabled and qualifies for SSDI or SSI using one of two methods: evaluating whether their condition is so severe it meets or exceeds a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments (this list is also called the Blue Book and it lists all the conditions and symptoms the SSA finds automatically disabling or through a medical vocational allowancewhich will determine if the claimant can continue to work their current job, past job or retrain for new work.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Lumbar vertebra showing spinal stenosis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)"]Lumbar vertebra showing spinal stenosis[/caption]

Meeting a Listing in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments

Spinal Stenosis is on the SSA Listing of Impairmentsunder 1.00 Musculoskeletal System, Section 1.04 Disorders of the spine. Under this section is included the following conditions herniated nucleus pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, vertebral fracture, resulting in compromise of a nerve root (including the cauda equina) or the spinal cord.

To meet this listing the claimant must have very specific symptoms. Having a diagnosis for spinal stenosis is NOT enough to be considered automatically disabled. What do you have to prove?

According to the SSA, a claimant must have “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 your condition does not produce the previous symptoms a claimant may also have spinal arachnoiditis. This condition is inflammation of the arachnoid which according to WebMD is “the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord.” The SSA expects that with this condition the claimant would have severe burning or painful dysesthesia. The claimant would need to prove that the pain is so severe they will have to shift their position more than one time every 2 hours.

If the claimant does not meet the two above listings they can prove that they have lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication. This condition often causes chronic pain or weakness that can impact the buttocks, hamstring or calves and make it difficult for the claimant to ambulate effectively.

Winning SSDI or SSI through a medical vocational allowance for spinal stenosis

Many claimants will not meet the listing described above for spinal stenosis and will instead have to prove that they do not have the ability to work. Claimants should have recent, good medical documentation that they cannot work. Although the claimant’s treating doctor does not have to write a note that they are disabled (and even if they did this does not guarantee SSI or SSDI benefits) it does help if the doctor specifically lists work activities that the claimant cannot perform.
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