Receivingbenefits After Back Surgery
If back surgery fails torelieve your pain, or makes it worse, youre likely still unable to work. TheSSA will evaluate your symptoms and the likelihood your impairment will improvein order to decide whether you qualify for benefits.
Again, there is nospecific listing for back surgery that automatically approves you for benefits.But if the surgery failed to correct your back impairment, you might be able toshow that your functioning is limited by your back problems.
Getting Disability For Cervical Neck Fusion
You may qualify for Social Security disability benefits for your cervical neck fusion or impairments. However, you must show that your symptoms are severe. They must cause problems doing normal activities. Additionally, they must keep you from working for at least 12 months.
Social Security provides a listing of impairments, known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book provides specific conditions that you must meet to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security doesnt have a specific listing for a cervical neck fusion. However, they do provide a listing for spinal disorders under 1.04.
Types Of Back Surgery That Can Leave You Disabled
Back surgery is usually used as a last resort to improve back problems that cause pain and mobility problems, but it’s not always successful. Chronic pain is not uncommon after back surgery.
Common types of corrective surgery include the following:
- Discectomy removes the herniated portion of a ruptured disc.
- Laminectomy removes bone to enlarge the spinal canal to relieve nerve pressure caused by stenosis .
- Artificial disc replacement is a new surgery that replaces degenerated discs to reduce painful movement between the vertebrae.
- Spinal fusion, also called arthrodesis, connects two or more unstable vertebrae to add eliminate motion and instability between adjacent vertebrae resulting from a deteriorated disc or when an intervertebral fracture has caused instability.
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If You Dont Meet Social Securitys Requirements Under Reconstructive Surgery Of A Major Weight Bearing Joint But You Have Had Both Hips Replaced Social Security Will Consider Your Residual Functioning Capacity What You Are Capable Of Doing Despite Your Disabilities
Any limitations you experience from your hip replacement and medical treatments will be evaluated. For example, Social Security may find that you can only work in a sedentary job, work that is done mostly while a person is seated and limits lifting of any objects to 10 pounds. However, even a sedentary job can require walking or standing at least two hours each day, so an applicant may not be able to perform even sedentary work. If Social Security determines that the symptoms associated with your hip replacement and treatments prevent you from doing any job, you may be awarded a medical-vocational allowance.
Back Conditions That Limit Your Abilities
There are several different back conditions that affect mobility, lead to restrictions, and cause severe pain. While there are conditions that have sudden onset because of an accident, there are conditions that occur with age or are caused by other medical conditions.
There are dozens of conditions that might render you disabled. Here are some of the more common back problems that can be disabling:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Back pain can be debilitating, but just saying you are in pain isnt enough to get approved for disability benefits. It can be a challenged to be approved for disability with any of these conditions.
You will need to provide supporting medical documentation that clearly details your condition and its severity.
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Social Security Disability Benefits For Back Impairments
Do you have back pain that results in disability? To qualify for disability benefits, the SSA requires you to have a medically determinable impairment that lasts for at least one year. This means that MRIs, CT scans, or x-rays, should show show that your back pain is objectively caused by some spinal abnormality. Some disc herniations dont produce pain, even if the disc is abnormal. But it is pain from a back impairment that causes the inability to work. Therefore, If you have back pain without any pain or impairment, than your are unlikely to win disability benefits.
Millions of people have back impairments. It is one of the most common disability claims. Social Security approves only the most severe cases of back pain. Likewise, they only approve back claims that have objective medical evidence of disability. Most people who apply for disability due to back pain have already undergone surgery. They may be experiencing back pain that radiates down the legs and prevents standing, walking, or sitting.
The most common cause of back pain is osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease. The SSA recognizes that back pain can be disabling under Listed Impairment 1.15. Below please find a copy of the listing. If you can show you have a nerve root compression, spinal arachnoiditis, or lumbar spinal stenosis, you may meet the disability criteria.
Residual Functional Capacity Assessment
If you dont have anunderlying back condition or illness in the SSAs list of impairments, you canstill be approved for benefits through a Residual Functional Capacity assessment. This assessment is completed by SocialSecurity doctors, or by your physician or a consulting physician.
Whoever performs theassessment will look at your ability to do physical work, called exertionallimitations, such as your ability to walk, how much weight you can carry andlift, your ability to bend over and lift, and so on. Youll also be evaluatedfor non-exertional limitations, or nonphysical skills like the ability toconcentrate or sit at a desk for long periods of time.
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What Benefits Can You Claim With Spinal Stenosis
If you have spinal stenosis, most likely than not the benefits that you will be able to claim for that condition is Social Security Disability Insurance .
SSDI is a disability program administered by the SSA that gives benefits to those with disabilities or severe ailments, like spinal stenosis who at one point could work, but because of their condition they can no longer work anymore.
The first thing when applying for SSDI benefits with spinal stenosis is that you have to meet the medical listing outlined in the Blue Book. As stated above, spinal stenosis is located in the Blue Book in section 1.04 under disorders of the spine.
The listing in the Blue Book states that spinal conditions resulting in compromise of a nerve root or the spinal cord with:
- 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
If your medical records and other paperwork help you match the listing in the Blue Book that is one part of being able to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance .
The second part of being able to qualify for SSDI benefits is having enough work credits to qualify as SSDI is for those who could at one point work, but now cannot because of their condition.
Part D Of Listing 115
D. Impairment-related physical limitation of musculoskeletal functioning that has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months, and medical documentation of at least one of the following:
1. A documented medical need for a walker, bilateral canes, or bilateral crutches or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of both hands ) or
2. An inability to use one upper extremity to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements , and a documented medical need for a one-handed, hand-held assistive device that requires the use of the other upper extremity or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of one hand ) or
3. An inability to use both upper extremities to the extent that neither can be used to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements .
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Diagnostic Imaging Helps But Credibility Is Key
The most common reason that long-term disability claims for back problems get denied is lack of objective evidence of disability. However, you can seek out diagnostic imaging to prove the disorder. This evidence alone isnt enough to win disability benefits, but it is valuable for your case. It can help show your pain is legitimate.
Make sure to tell the doctor about your problems and pain in detail. Then, they will choose an imaging technique that fits and analyze the results for a diagnosis.
The most common imaging techniques are X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans. X-rays can check for instability in the structure of the bones to find issues such as spinal fractures. CT scans are more detailed than x-rays. They can image specific conditions such as spinal stenosis or a bulging disc.
MRI scans are used to assess details of the disc and nerve root. They allow doctors to identify disorders like degenerative disc disease, bulging discs, and spinal stenosis. An important note about MRI results is that there is no accepted link between back pain and what can be seen on an MRI. This is where credibility becomes very important.
One of the best ways to build credibility is to try a variety of treatments for your back pain. You will have a much better chance of getting disability benefits for back problems if you work with professionals who can back up your claims.
Can I Qualify For Benefits Without Meeting A Listing
It’s not necessary to meet one of Social Security’s blue book listings to be considered disabled. After deciding your condition doesn’t meet a listing, Social Security will evaluate your condition based on the medical evidence in your case to determine your Residual Functional Capacity , which describes your ability to perform work-related activities despite your impairments. The main purpose of your RFC is to assess whether you can do sedentary, light, medium, or heavy work.
In making this assessment, Social Security will rely on the medical evidence and records in your case, which should include physical examinations of your spine, range of motion tests, and observations from your physician about problems you experience related to your spine. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans may also be useful in proving disability in cases involving spinal fusion.
In addition to your objective medical records, the opinion of your treating doctor is of paramount importance in demonstrating the severity of your condition. If your doctor is willing to complete an RFC form or write a statement about your condition, he or she should offer specific opinions as to your physical limitations. For instance, your doctor should address the following questions:
- How long are you able to sit at one time?
- How long can you stand at one time?
- Are you able to bend, squat, and stoop?
- How much can you lift occasionally ?
- How much can you lift frequently ?
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Life After Spine Surgery: Do People Really Return To Work
People with back and neck problems want to get well, get their lives back, and get back to work. Physicians and other spine care providers focus on decreasing pain in an effort to get these people back into their full speed lives again. Usually, appropriate exercise and conservative care is all that is required. Occasionally, surgery may be required to reestablish full function.
Years ago, spine surgery developed a well deserved reputation for causing as much back pain as it helped. Rarely did surgery deliver as much benefit as it hoped. Over the past twenty years of my career, advances in our ability to diagnose and treat spinal disease have expanded dramatically. With the latest techniques, we are now able to get people back to work and back to life after spine surgery very reliably.
- So what should workers expect from spine surgery?
- How long does it take to recover?
- How realistic is it that a person could return to work after spinal fusion?
- Can a person who has had multiple back surgeries ever work again?
Study of Workers – We studied 255 patients, all adults between age 19 and age 60, who were working full time prior to their lumbar surgery. Some had to stop working before surgery due to pain, but they had the capability to work and hoped to get back to work following surgery. Excluded from the study were patients who were retired, students, the unemployed, and any patients involved in a worker’s compensation claim or litigation of any sort .
Show That Youve Done All You Can To Get Better
When you apply for disability benefits for back problems, you have to prove that you have done absolutely everything you can to help yourself. There are lots of treatments for chronic back pain. For example, you might try drug treatment, various therapies, surgery, psychological counselling, and physical rehabilitation.
Initially, many people with back pain turn to drug treatment to lessen their discomfort. But, issues can arise from drug use. For example, you might experience major side-effects or be prone to addiction. Or, you might not be able to afford the medication.
There are also a variety of therapies that you can get. Exercise, electrotherapy, and superficial heating and cooling of the skin are just a few. Many of these therapies dont work for patients. But, theyre all worth trying before you can get disability benefits for back problems.
If your particular disorder can be fixed with surgery, thats another option. However, surgery can come at a high cost. Lots of people cant afford it. Additionally, there is always a chance for complications. Other health conditions can prevent a safe procedure, as well.
Psychology also plays a role in your back pain. It is crucial to seek out psychological counseling to make sure there isnt a way you can cope with your problem. Disability benefits are often denied if applicants fail to do this, so attempting this form of therapy is crucial.
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How Do Spinal Cord Stimulators Work
An SCS typically consists of several parts:
- Stimulator: a battery-powered device surgically implanted in your spine to generate electrical pulses
- Leads: thin wires connected to the stimulator that run through your spinal canal, delivering pulses to the spinal cord
- Remote control: a handheld device that helps you control the spinal cord stimulator and adjust its settings
Your doctors and other professionals will program your SCS to target your specific condition and symptoms, using specific patterns of electrical pulses of varying frequency and strength to address your pain.
Spinal cord stimulators have become increasingly sophisticated. Today, some devices are rechargeable and can even sense when youre sitting or lying down and will change your program based on your position and other factors.
A spinal cord stimulator, however, will not stop or cure your chronic back pain. Instead, it changes how your brain perceives the pain. So instead of feeling an excruciating pain that shoots down your leg, you might feel milder pain combined with numbness and tingling . Doctors consider a spinal cord stimulator successful if it reduces your back pain by 5070%. However, SCS does not work for everyoneand some people decide to remove their stimulators due to negative side effects or poor pain control.
When Your Rfc Says You Should Be Allowed Benefits
If the SSA determines there are no jobs you can be expected to do with your RFC, there’s a chance you could qualify for disability benefits under a “medical-vocational allowance.” Most people with back problems and post-surgical problems who are approved for Social Security disability benefits are approved under a medical-vocational allowance. However, your chances of getting disability through a medical-vocational allowance are low unless you are over 55. For instance, if the SSA says you can do medium work, you won’t be considered disabled unless you’re older than 55, have less than a 6th grade education, and have limited skills. In most other cases, if you can do medium work, the SSA will presume that you can learn and do a new job. For more information on how your RFC affects your chance of a medical-vocational allowance, see our article on Disability Determination for Back Problems.
|Take our disability quiz to help you determine whether you qualify for benefits.|
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Evidence Needed Related Your Quality Of Life And Ability To Care For Yourself
Most individuals who undergo a spinal fusion surgery end up qualifying for SSDI benefits through a residual functional capacity assessment.
An RFC will document your ability to perform certain tasks, such as lifting and walking.
Many people choose to have their physician complete an RFC detailing their limitations. For example, if you have difficulty lifting or bending or if you have burning pain that prohibits your movement, this should be carefully documented by your doctor.
Your physician should carefully document your ability to take care of yourself, your home, and your activities of daily living.
To Get Disability For Back Pain Youll Have To Show The Social Security That Your Pain Is Beyond The Moderate Back Pain That Many People Experience And That You Have Trouble Standing Walking Or Sitting Or Long Periods
By Bethany K. Laurence, Attorney
Back injuries can be caused by natural aging processes and deterioration like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, from illnesses like inflammatory arthritis , or from postural problems resulting from scoliosis, improper lifting, extended periods of sitting, bad posture, or years of wear and tear from heavy lifting and bending at work. Back injuries can also occur from car accidents, sports injuries, and falls.
Most applicants for disability based on back pain suffer from osteoarthritis or disc degeneration rather than a traumatic accident or injury. And quite a few applicants are those who have gone through a back surgery and have not recovered well.
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