Spinal Cord Injuries and Social Security Disability

Spinal cord injuries are some of the most severe injuries an individual can face. They often result in devastating disabilities. These disabilities can prevent an individual from performing any type of gainful work activity whatsoever. As a result, the individuals who suffer from these injuries are in desperate need of disability benefits. It is important when applying for disability benefits, however, to understand which spinal cord injuries qualify an individual for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and what criteria must be met in order to qualify.

Spinal Cord Injuries and Qualifying Criteria

There are a few different listings in the SSA’s Blue Book (http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/) that may qualify an individual for Social Security Disability benefits due to a spinal cord injury. It is important to understand, however, that a spinal cord injury in and of itself is not enough to qualify you for benefits. You must be able to prove that your injury meets the criteria of a Blue Book listing or that you are unable to perform any type of work activity whatsoever and be approved under a vocational allowance.

Some of the Blue Book listings that may qualify a spinal cord injury for Social Security Disability benefits include:

Section 1.04 – Disorders of the Spine

Under this Blue Book listing you can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you have suffered a spinal cord injury, such as a vertebral fracture, that results in a compromise of the nerve root or the spinal cord with:

  • Evidence of nerve root compression that is characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss with sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, problems with sitting; or
  • Proof of spinal arachnoiditis that has been confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging that has manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia and results in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every 2 hours; or
  • Proof of lumbar spinal stenosis that results in pseudoclaudication and is established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging and is manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness and results in the inability to ambulate effectively.

Section 11.08 – Spinal Cord or Nerve Root Lesions Due to Any Cause

Under this Blue Book listing you can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you suffer from spinal cord or nerve root lesions due to any cause, including any kind of spinal cord injury. In order to qualify for benefits und this section you must prove through medical imaging that you suffer from lesions to the spinal cord or nerve root and that they result in a disorganization of motor function.

Applying for Disability Benefits

You can either submit your application for disability online (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability.htm) or at your local SSA office. You will also have to decide whether you have to apply for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSDI is meant for individuals with a strong work history, while SSI is a needs-based program where your work history will not be taken into account.

When you submit your application for Social Security Disability benefits due to a spinal cord injury, it is crucial that you understand what information the SSA must see in order to approve your case for benefits. If you are applying based on a Blue Book listing, such as one of the listings mentioned above, make sure you provide evidence showing that you meet all of the criteria that has been established in that listing.

If your spinal cord injury does not meet any of the listings that have been published in the Blue Book, you will need to try to apply for disability benefits based on a vocational allowance. In order to do this, you must be able to prove to the SSA that you are unable to perform any type of work activity whatsoever. This can be done through a combination of statements from your treating physicians, medical records and a residual functional capacity report.

The Services of a Social Security Disability Attorney

Spinal cord injuries can be complicated and proving that you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits due to such an injury can be complicated as well. Because of this, you may want to consult with a Social Security Disability attorney if you are filing a claim based on a spinal cord injury. Disability Attorneys work on a contingency basis and are not paid unless you are successfully awarded benefits.

The information contained in the above article was provided by guest contributor, Ram Meyyappan, www.disability-benefits-help.org  This article was not provided by the SSA and is not intended to be used as legal advice.