Scoliosis and Qualifying for Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Scoliosis?
Author: Attorney Greg Reed
Approximately two to three percent of Americans are affected by Scoliosis, an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine that can develop in infancy or early childhood. Scoliosis is primarily diagnosed in adolescents and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 15, but also occurs in adults. Both boys and girls are equally affected, however, the condition progresses more rapidly in girls. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but severe scoliosis can be disabling. If you are suffering from the effects of Scoliosis you may qualify for disability benefits.
Eighty percent of cases are idiopathic, meaning there is no known cause. Congenital scoliosis develops before birth, resulting from malformation of one or more vertebrae at any point in the spine. Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by a neurological or muscular disease such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord trauma, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy or spina bifida. This type of scoliosis generally progresses rapidly and often requires surgical treatment. Degenerative scoliosis affects adults and develops in the lower back as a person ages.
Mild cases of scoliosis can develop in children without notice because symptoms appear gradually and do not cause pain, but the most common signs and symptoms of scoliosis include:
- Noticeable curve in the back
- Uneven shoulders
- One hip higher than the other
- Uneven waist
- Leaning to one side when standing
- One shoulder blade appears bigger
- Ribs stick out father on one side of the body
- Back pain and stiffness
- Pain and numbness in legs
Some cases of scoliosis are believed to be hereditary because the condition sometimes runs in families.
- Birth defects affecting the development of vertebrae in the spine
- Injuries to or infection of the spine
- Spinal cord abnormalities
- Neuromuscular conditions like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy
- Tumors on the spine
- Genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome
When diagnosing scoliosis, a doctor will often ask a patient to bend from the waist to see if the spine is curved, but an ordinary x-ray can confirm diagnosis and the severity of the curvature.
A curve in the spine with an angle greater than 10 degrees on an x-ray is considered scoliosis. A doctor may also conduct a neurological exam to check muscle weakness, numbness and abnormal reflexes. People with a mild curve of the spine may not need any treatment aside from regular checkups to make sure their condition is not getting worse, but if a person has a moderate to severe curvature, bracing or surgery to reduce the curve may be necessary.
If you are suffering from Scoliosis and have been denied disability don’t give up! Most are initially denied. Just call 512-454-4000 for a free, no obligation consultation to learn your options and have your questions patiently answered.
Qualifying for Disability for Scoliosis
Most people who suffer from scoliosis have mild symptoms and are easily treated, but those with severe cases may experience chronic back pain, nerve damage, and difficulty breathing if the spine presses on the rib cage.
In adults, the impact of scoliosis can be similar to other conditions such as arthritis and interfere with daily tasks and prevent working. Spinal disorders are among the most frequent claims on applications for SSDI, but only those applicants with the most severe symptoms and supporting medical evidence will qualify. Scoliosis is not listed as an impairment by Social Security in its Blue Book, but it is still possible to qualify for disability benefits.
There are two ways you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits under a diagnosis of scoliosis:
- Matching the criteria of one of Social Security’s listed impairments; or
- Proving you are unable to perform any job because of symptoms and functional limitations resulting from scoliosis.
Social Security will evaluate how scoliosis causes you pain and limits your ability to move.
For example, if scoliosis causes pressure on nerves, affecting your ability to walk or use your hands, Social Security may evaluate your claim under a Blue Book listing for musculoskeletal disorders. If your symptoms don’t interfere with daily routine, like shopping and caring for yourself, you won’t qualify.
Scoliosis is one of the more difficult disorders to receive disability benefits for; with modern medical advances, it is rare that scoliosis cannot be treated.
Make sure that your medical and treatment history shows sufficient effort to fix your spine. Be prepared to submit complete medical records which should include the following:
- Diagnosis of scoliosis
- Notes from a physical examination and doctors’ visits detailing symptoms of pain, weakness and reduced range of motion
- Medical imaging, including x-rays and MRIs
- Medical evidence of nerve compression
- Medications you are taking and any side effects
- Reports from visits to specialists such as orthopedic surgeons or neurologists
- Emergency room visits
- Physical therapy records detailing limitations in activities like lifting and bending over
- Use of a back brace or assistive device
- Surgery reports
If your scoliosis doesn’t meet the criteria of a listed impairment, you may still qualify for disability benefits if you can prove there aren’t any jobs you can do because of your condition.
Social Security will evaluate how your limitations affect your ability to work (called a medical vocational assessment), taking into account whether or not you are able to drive, your age, and level of education.
Social Security will conduct a Residual Functional Capacity assessment considering:
- How long you can sit, stand, and walk
- How much weight you can lift and carry
- Any restrictions on your ability to move
- Any mental limitations you have such as concentrating due to pain
If Social Security determines there are no jobs you can perform, you may qualify as vocationally disabled.
Finally, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another impairment; for example, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Applicants often have more than one illness or injury that prevents them from working full time. By itself one disorder may not meet the requirements of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book, but if you have multiple medical conditions, Social Security must consider how those health issues, combined together, limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.
If you suffer from scoliosis and you are unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
Applying for disabilities can be a long and complicated process, but the help and guidance of an experienced disability attorney can smooth the process and give you a better chance for success.
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.
Your Free Initial Consultation
At Bemis, Roach and Reed, if we can't help you, we will try to find the right attorneys for you.
We offer each of our prospective clients a free no obligation one hour phone or office consultation to see if we can help you and if you are comfortable with us. We know how difficult a time like this can be and how hard the decisions are. If we can be of assistance to you and help you find a solution to your issue we will even if that means referring you to another attorney.
Or simply call
to schedule your
Let's get you Started:
If you could provide us with some basic information about your claim we will get right back with you with a free case evaluation and schedule your Free Consultation Today.