Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of a Herniated Disc?
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of a Herniated Disc?
Author Attorney Greg Reed:
Back pain is a leading cause of work loss days and work limitations. Approximately eight percent of adults experience chronic back pain and it can affect people of all ages as well as incomes. A herniated disk (or “bulging” disk or “slipped” disk) is a condition that can cause severe back pain and develop into a disability.
The spine is composed of many small bones called vertebrae.
In between the vertebrae are pillow-like structures called disks which cushion and hold the vertebrae together and enable the spine to move and bend over. Disks are made of a soft, jelly-like center called the nucleus and a tough, rubbery exterior called the annulus. A herniated disk occurs when the nucleus pushes through a tear in the annulus; if a disk moves out of place, it can irritate nerves in the spine, causing extreme pain, numbness, and weakness in the arms or legs. Most herniated disks occur in the lower back, but can be located in any part of the spine, including the neck.
Symptoms depend on where the herniated disk is located and if the disk presses on a nerve, but usually affect one side of the body.
- If a disk is located in the lower back, there is sharp, burning pain in the buttocks, thigh, calf and possibly part of the foot. If a herniated disk occurs in the neck, pain will occur in an arm and shoulder.
- Muscles become weak if served by an irritated nerve, causing a person to stumble or have difficulty holding or lifting items.
- Numbness and tingling radiating through the part of the body affected by irritated nerves.
- Loss of balance or coordination.
- Problems using the hands or arms for fine motor skills.
- Discomfort and pain that is worse when the person is active and subsides during rest.
Though some people do not experience any debilitating symptoms, serious complications can develop in other cases.
It is important to seek immediate medical attention in the event pain or numbness interferes with daily activities, bladder or bowel dysfunction, or saddle anesthesia (the loss of sensation in the inner thighs, back of legs and area around the rectum).
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from the effects of a Herniated Disc. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Herniated disks are usually the result of age-related wear and tear on the body called disk degeneration.Herniated disks are usually the result of age-related wear and tear on the body called disk degeneration.
As a person ages, disks become less flexible and prone to tearing or rupturing, especially with strenuous physical activity. Using the back muscles to lift heavy objects instead of the legs and thighs can place pressure on the spine. Rarely is a herniated disk caused by a traumatic injury, though a sudden strain or jarring motion can be responsible.
People at risk for herniated disks include individuals who are overweight, working in jobs that are physically demanding and require heavy lifting, bending, pulling, and pushing, and people with a family history of back problems.
Smoking is also a risk factor as it reduces the oxygen supply to disks causing them to break down.
Diagnosis of a herniated disk begins with an exam to find the source of pain and a variety of tests are used.
- X-rays to show the outline of the spine and rule out fractures or tumors
- Myelograms that inject dye into the spinal fluid and then x-rayed to locate pressure on the spinal cord
- MRIs to locate the position of a herniated disk, look inside it and determine which nerves are affected
- CT scans to create images of the spinal cord
- Electromyograms and nerve conduction studies to identify which nerves are damaged or compressed
Treatment mainly involves rest, medications, and physical therapy.
Rest reduces swelling and gives the body time to heal. Over-the-counter medications relieve pain and inflammation, and muscle relaxants can ease back spasms. Physical therapy relieves symptoms through a combination of stretching, exercise, massage, ultrasound therapy and electrical muscle stimulation. If symptoms fail to improve, or worsen, a doctor may recommend steroid injections. Surgery is not usually necessary, but if previous treatment is not successful and symptoms become worse, particularly if a patient is having trouble walking and standing or can’t control bladder function, it may be advised.
Qualifying for Disability for Herniated Disk
Though chronic back pain can impact a person’s work life, applying for Social Security Disability income with a diagnosis of herniated disk poses some challenges.
Most cases of herniated disk resolve within a year or are repaired by surgery. In order to be eligible for SSDI, an injury or illness must last, or be expected to last 12 months. Social Security allows 90 – 120 days to recover from back surgery. Additionally, your condition must be so severe it meets the requirements of an impairment as listed by Social Security, or because of your age, education and job skills combined with functional limitations, you can no longer do any job. Functional limitations refer to what tasks an applicant can or cannot perform; for example, the amount of weight you can lift, how long you are able to stand or sit, and your ability to bend, stoop, reach or grasp and object.
Social Security includes herniated disk in its impairment listings under Section 1.04, “Disorders of the spine”,Social Security includes herniated disk in its impairment listings under Section 1.04, “Disorders of the spine”, in which a herniated disk is described as a “herniated nucleus pulposus.”
In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must be able to provide medical evidence that you have one of the following:
- Nerve root compression; or
- Stenosis (narrowing of the spine); or
- Arachnoiditis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the spinal cord).
If you are claiming nerve root compression, you must also provide medical evidence of a limited range of motion, a decrease in reflexes or sensation, and muscle weakness.
Many applicants don’t meet Social Security’s listing requirements for nerve root compression, or stenosis or arachnoiditis. However, you may qualify if your functional limitations prevent you from doing your job; for example, you can’t lift anything heavier than 15 pounds. Additionally, you may also be granted a medical-vocational allowance if you are unable to perform any other job given your limitations, your age, education and skills.
It is not uncommon for benefits to be denied on initial application, and in that case, an applicant needs to file an appeal in order to get a hearing before an administrative judge.
Your chances of winning your case at the hearing level are much greater if you have legal representation. That is why it’s important to have a qualified disability attorney by your side when applying for Social Security Disability benefits.
Herniated Disc long-term disability claim:
One Bastrop client, who worked for Albertson’s, had an inoperable, severely herniated disc in his lumbar spine, which caused both spinal stenosis and severe intractable back pain. His disability Plan Administrator claimed that he was capable of performing sedentary work, so his claim was denied. It was determined that, in an eight-hour work day, the client could only stand, sit, or drive in 30-minute increments. He required and took on a daily basis Methadone, Percocet, Neurantin, Paxil, and Klonopin. These medications prevented him from obtaining any gainful employment. Two of his treating physicians wrote that his condition was so severe that they did not even recommend performing a functional capacity evaluation on him, because it would violate his lifting restrictions and could do further damage to his severe back problem. Bemis, Roach & Reed took his case to trial and won, with a benefit reinstatement award.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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