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Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of a Herniated Disk?

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of a herniated disk(disc)?

Author: Attorney Greg Reed
Updated: 11/15/2023

Herniated disks account for approximately four percent of cases of back pain. A herniated disk (or “bulging” disk) is a condition which may cause severe back pain and develop into a disability. If you are suffering from the effects of a herniated disk you may qualify for disability benefits.

 Herniated disks and qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance

If you are suffering from the effects of a herniated disc and have been denied disability don’t give up, almost 70% are denied initially! Just call 512-454-4000 for a free, no obligation consultation to learn what your options are.

Symptoms depend on where the herniated disk is located and if the disk presses on a nerve.

If a herniated disk is located in the lower back, there is sharp, burning pain in the arms or legs; if a herniated disk occurs in the neck, pain will occur in an arm and shoulder. Often a herniated disk will affect only one side of the body.

Other symptoms include:

  •    Muscle weakness
  •    Numbness and tingling
  •    Loss of balance or coordination.
  •    Difficulty 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 many people do not experience any symptoms, others can develop serious complications such as severe pain or weakness that 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).

These or a combination of these symptoms can cause you to miss work and jeopardize your ability to maintain employment.

Can I qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if I have a herniated disk?

People with a herniated disc can suffer from chronic pain in the back and hips and experience muscle weakness, numbness, tingling and loss of reflexes.

These symptoms may become debilitating and impact a person’s work life, but applying for Social Security Disability income with a diagnosis of herniated disk can be very challenging. Social Security has created a manual called the Blue Book which lists impairments Social Security considers disabling and may automatically qualify for benefits. Your medical condition must be so severe it meets the criteria of an impairment listed by Social Security, or because of your functional limitations, age, education and job skills, you can no longer do any job.
Herniated disk does not have a specific listing in the Blue Book, but you may be eligible for SSDI if your symptoms match a listing, such as Section 1.15 Disorders of the skeletal spine resulting in compression of a nerve root.

To qualify as disabled under 1.15, you must provide medical evidence showing limited range of motion, a decrease in reflexes or sensation, and muscle weakness; specifically, all of the following:

  •    Evidence that you experience radiating pain, tingling, or muscle fatigue consistent with nerve root compression
  •    Results of a diagnostic or clinical exam showing a radiating pattern of all of the following:
    •    muscle weakness
    •    nerve root irritation, tension, or compression, and
    •    decreased sensation, sensory nerve deficit on electrodiagnostic testing, or decreased deep tendon reflexes.
    •    X-ray, MRI, or other imaging showing compromise of a nerve root, and
    •    Medical documentation of a physical limitation and proof of the following:

  •    X-ray, MRI, or other imaging showing compromise of a nerve root, and
  •    Medical documentation of a physical limitation and proof of the following:
    •    you need a walker, bilateral canes or crutches, or a wheelchair or scooter that requires both hands
    •    you are unable to use one hand due to nerve root compression, and you need the other hand to operate a one-handed wheelchair, cane, crutch, or other device, or
    •    you are unable to use either hand to do work due to nerve root compression.

Social Security will expect to see your complete, up-to-date medical records, including:

  •    Results from a physical exam;
  •    Results of clinical tests for reflexes, muscle strength and sensations;
  •    Imaging such as MRIs, x-rays and CT scans;
  •    Medications you are taking and your response;
  •    Treatments you are taking and your response;
  •    Doctors’ notes regarding your limitations and expected progress.

You need to show that you are receiving regular medical treatment and following your doctor’s instructions because Social Security gives a lot of weight to doctors’ opinions.

A written statement from your doctor regarding your diagnosis and outlook for your recovery is extremely helpful.

If you cannot meet Social Security’s listing requirements for nerve root compression or another listing, you may qualify if your functional limitations prevent you from doing your job; or any job.

A herniated disk can affect your ability to do physical or sedentary work. You may be unable to stand or walk for more than two hours a day or need to elevate your legs or lie down to reduce pain. You may have difficulty using your hands or fingers, have to take frequent breaks or have poor concentration and focus due to medications. Social Security will conduct a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment to evaluate your physical and mental capabilities to determine if there is any job you can do, taking into consideration your age, education and whether or not you can drive. If Social Security decides you cannot do your old job or any other job given your limitations, you may be approved for a Medical-Vocational Allowance.

“Once Social Security determines the limitations caused by your condition, they will employ a vocational expert to assess whether a person with these limitations is employable. Most vocational experts will find a person to be unemployable if their condition or the treatment rendered for the condition causes the person to regularly be absent two or more days a month or be “off-task” 15% or more of the workday.” – Lloyd Bemis Disability Attorney

If you are 55 or older or have another medical condition you may get approval.

Social Security follows a set of rules to determine when the agency expects an applicant to learn a new job.

Applicants who are 55 or older often fall under a grid rule, which means they are not expected to learn a new job. As an example, if you are 55 or older and have no transferable job skills, you might be found disabled. If you can’t go back to your old job, and you don’t have the skills to learn a new one, Social Security will likely grant you disability benefits.

You might also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another medical condition; for example, high blood pressure or asthma, so be sure to include all your medical conditions on your application.

One disorder alone may not meet the criteria of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book, but if you have more than one medical condition, Social Security must consider how those health issues combined limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.

Social Security also has basic financial requirements.

Before you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must satisfy some basic financial requirements.

You must: 1) have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months; and 2) you must have worked in a job where you paid Social Security taxes long enough and recently enough; and 3) you must not earn more than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), which is $1,550 per month in 2024 for nonblind applicants and $2,590 per month for blind applicants.

What if I don’t qualify for SSDI?

If you haven’t worked long enough to earn enough work credits, or if you earn too much income, you may be eligible for disability benefits through another Social Security program, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or from a long-term disability insurance plan through your employer or a privately purchased policy.

SSI is a program that pays monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. SSI is based on income instead of work credits, and is financed by general funds of the U.S. Treasury.

I have long-term disability insurance – should I file a claim?

Yes, as soon as you become disabled, you should file a claim.

Long-term disability insurance (LTD) protects your income if you are unable to work due to illness or injury and is purchased as part of a group employment plan or privately through an insurance company. Policies pay between 50-60% of your salary and benefits continue until you return to work or for the number of years stated in the policy. However, LTD coverage is good only as long as you are employed, so do not quit your job before you file a claim, and be sure to check your policy’s definition of “disabled” as each policy will state the definition of “disabled” which is in use. Additionally, be aware that long-term disability insurance companies can require a claimant to also apply for SSDI.

 Greg Reed Disability lawyer

How do I file for Social Security Disability benefits?

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security Administration office.

Don’t be discouraged if your initial application is denied; 65% of initial applications are denied and you will have the opportunity to appeal. There are four steps to the Social Security appeal process:

  •    File a Request for Reconsideration with the Social Security Administration to completely review the case.
  •    If you don’t agree with SSA’s response to your Request for Reconsideration, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). ALJs are attorneys who work for the Social Security Administration; they review SSDI cases and either uphold or overturn decisions to deny SSDI benefits. If you are not represented by an attorney at this point, now is the time to obtain legal counsel. This is a critical point in the process and will raise your chance for success.
  •    If an ALJ does not grant your claim, you can request that the Appeals Council review your case.
  •    Federal Court review. The final step in the appeal process is filing suit in U.S. District Court.

Do I need a disability attorney for SSDI?

If you have a herniated disk and cannot work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but qualifying is complicated and applying for SSDI is a long process that can take several months to years.

In April 2021, the Social Security Administration made changes to its musculoskeletal listing (Section 1.00), making it more difficult for claimants to gain approval under some of those listings. Only 10% of applicants are approved through musculoskeletal listings, but your chances for approval are increased significantly if you have legal representation. At each potential stage of the process, from the initial application stage, the reconsideration stage and the ALJ hearing stage, an attorney can assist you in completing the detailed forms and questionnaires required by Social Security, collecting and submitting relevant medical evidence, and preparing questionnaires for your doctors. At the ALJ hearing phase an attorney will not only continue to assure that the evidence is complete, but prepare you for questioning by the ALJ, prepare an argument on your behalf and question any doctors or vocational experts selected by the ALJ to testify at the hearing. At the Appeals Council and federal court level, a lawyer can present legal arguments to show your case was wrongfully denied. Fees charged by disability attorneys are regulated by federal law and are usually 25% of disability backpay you are owed. There are no out-of-pocket costs, and if you don’t win your case, you won’t be charged anything.

If you are suffering from the effects of a herniated disk and have been denied disability don’t give up, almost 70% are denied initially! Just call 512-454-4000 for a free, no obligation consultation to learn what your options are. Have some questions? just give us a call, we love to help folks just like you!

Do I need a disability attorney for a long-term disability insurance claim?

Whether you have a long-term disability insurance policy purchased through a private insurance broker or a group policy purchased with your employer, filing a claim for long-term insurance is a complex process.

The wording of LTD policies can be confusing and the laws and regulations which affect the two types of LTD insurance differ in their procedures for filing claims and appeals. An experienced LTD attorney with thorough knowledge of ERISA laws and regulations will avoid mistakes and increase your chance of success. An attorney will act on your behalf, completing your application and filing your claim in a timely manner. They can also negotiate a settlement or file an appeal for you. If it becomes necessary to file suit, an LTD attorney can prepare your case against an insurer. Most LTD attorneys handle cases on a contingency basis and charge approximately 25%-40% of a claimant’s past due benefits. You do not pay an attorney’s fee unless the attorney wins your case.

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The Texas Disability law firm Bemis Roach & Reed is dedicated to assisting injured or disabled clients in obtaining the benefits they deserve. Mr. Lonnie Roach is AV Preeminent and SuperLawyers rated and has become a recognized leader in the field of Long Term Disability law. Mr Bemis focuses his practice on Social Security disability, while Mr. Reed handles both LTD and SSDI claims, and they both hold AV Preeminent and SuperLawyers ratings. Our winning associate attorneys, Daniel Messenger and Jake Roach, vigorously advocate for SSDI claims. Since 1993, our firm has successfully fought for individuals’ rights against large insurance companies and the government. If you have been denied benefits, contact us at 512-454-4000 for a complimentary consultation and immediate assistance.

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"Words can not truly express the gratitude that I feel toward Mr. Lonnie Roach and his professional team. I give them an A+++. Very compassionate and prompt. Their priorities are first and foremost helping you succeed at your case. When you feel helpless, feeling like someone is on your side can mean the world to you. Thank you for working for the people."
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Greg Reed disability lawyer
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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