Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Spondylosis?
Spondylosis is an umbrella term to describe pain from any type of spinal degeneration. It is often used interchangeably with degenerative disc disease and to describe osteoarthritis, but should not be confused with spondylitis, an inflammatory form of arthritis. Spondylosis can occur in the neck (cervical spondylosis), upper or mid-back (thoracic spondylosis), or lower back (lumbar spondylosis). Multilevel spondylosis affects multiple vertebrae in the spine.
As a person ages, discs of the spine gradually weaken, become dehydrated and stiffen.
Bone spurs, or abnormal growths called osteophytes, may form on the vertebrae. These bone spurs can cause narrowing in the spinal column where spinal nerves exit, a condition known as spinal stenosis, or result in herniated discs and bulging discs.
Though some people do not experience symptoms, others have symptoms that come and go or become worse with certain activities, such as sitting for a long period of time.
The most common symptoms include:
- Back pain
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Loss of balance and difficulty walking
- Grinding noise or sensation when turning the neck
- Numbness or tingling in hands, feet, arms or legs
- Shooting pain down the leg
- Inability to turn the head completely or bend the neck
- Muscle spasms
Spondylosis is a relatively common condition that may begin between the ages of 20 and 50.
More than 80% of people over the age of 40 exhibit some evidence of spondylosis on x-rays and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimates that 85% of people over the age of 60 have cervical spondylosis.
In addition to aging, other risk factors may contribute to the development of spondylosis:
- A family history of degenerative disc disease
- Injuries to the spine
- A job that requires repetitive weight-bearing movements
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 Spondylosis. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Because spondylosis is a degenerative process, it is irreversible, and treatment focuses on relieving back and neck pain.
Medications such as anti-inflammatories, analgesics, muscle relaxants and even some anti-depressants have been found useful for managing pain. Other therapies include exercise, physical therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture. Surgical options are controversial as studies have shown that most patients experience more improvement with physical therapy and pain management than surgery. However, in cases where spondylosis causes a nerve problem or progressive nerve damage, or affects an individual’s mobility, surgery may be necessary.
Back pain is one of the most common impairments for which people apply for Social Security Disability benefits and degenerative disc disease is listed as an impairment in Social Security’s Blue Book under Section 1.04:
1.04 Disorders of the spine (e.g., 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.
But qualifying for Social Security with spondylosis can be very difficult.
Almost everyone experiences back pain at some time in their life, but that will not make them eligible for SSDI. The Social Security Administration expects people who perform a job at a certain level of exertion who are injured will return to their same job after a period of time and grant benefits only to those applicants whose condition is so severe they are unable to sit or stand for long periods of time.
An applicant must be able to meet the following criteria:
- 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);
- Spinal arachnoiditis, confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every 2 hours;
- Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, and resulting in inability to ambulate effectively, as defined in 1.00B2b.
A Social Security examiner will want to see:
- A physician’s diagnosis of degenerative disc disease
- x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and other imaging providing evidence of nerve root compression and disc deterioration
- Detailed descriptions of pain levels and motor function limitations
Be sure to see your doctor at least once every two months and discuss any difficulties you are having, such as trouble bending down to pick something up or sitting for long periods of time.
Medical records that document how spondylosis has impacted your daily life very specifically over a period of months will have a greater influence on the SSA’s determination than a general statement that the applicant has back pain. Inform your family and friends about your condition. Social Security often calls claimants or an applicant’s family members and friends under the guise of gathering information when the examiner is really looking for evidence to deny a claim. For this reason, it may be wise to hire a qualified disability attorney to assist you. If you are represented by an attorney, Social Security cannot contact you directly about your claim, but must go through your representative.
Qualifying for SSDI with spondylosis may not be easy, but it is still possible.
If you have spondylosis and you are unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
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.
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