Back problems are very common. Some estimates suggest that eight of every ten people experience back pain at some time in their lives. The Social Security Administration (SSA) receives more disability applications from people who have back injuries or chronic back pain than any other physical illness or injury. You may be eligible for Social Security benefits for back injuries in Georgia or South Carolina. However, the standards that SSA applies to determine if your condition is severe enough are strict.
Qualifying through the Listing of Impairments
One way to qualify for benefits because of your back condition is through SSA’s Listing of Impairments. The back impairments in the Listing are so severe that they are presumed to prevent you from working. If your medical evidence shows that your back impairment matches one in the Listings or is equally severe, you will be eligible for benefits.
The Listing includes numerous categories of back impairments. It is not enough for you to have been diagnosed with a particular back condition mentioned in the Listing. You must also meet the severity requirements set forth in the Listing for the condition.
Depending on what kind of back injury you have, your impairment may be described by the following categories in the Listing, among others:
Musculoskeletal System – Impairments of the musculoskeletal system involve bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligament, joints, and other connective tissue. This includes disorders of the spine, such as spinal stenosis, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease; fracture of the spine; and soft tissue injuries, such as burns, chronic muscle pains, and any other condition affecting the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the back.
Neurological Disorders affecting the spine may also impact the nervous system. Conditions such as spinal cord or root lesions due to any cause, multiple sclerosis, degeneration of the spinal cord, and more may fall into this category.
Cancer – You may have cancer in your back, neck, or spinal cord, which would fall into this category. Any cancer that debilitates you for at least a year would qualify you for benefits.
Immune System Disorders – These impairments are caused by antibody and/or cellular deficiencies. Conditions such as inflammatory arthritis may affect the spine and other parts of the body.
Qualifying by Proving You Cannot Work
If your back impairment does not match one in the Listing or is not equally severe, you may still qualify for benefits. In addition to proving that your condition will last at least one year, you must prove that it is severe enough that you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity because of that condition. You must prove you can no longer do past jobs or any other jobs that would be appropriate based on your age, education, or experience.
Proving You Have a Back Injury or Abnormality
If you have a condition that can be proven with acceptable medical tests, such as x-rays and MRIs, it may be easier to prove the severity of your condition. For example, degenerative disc disease can be proven with radiological imaging, and if it is severe enough, the SSA may automatically approve your claim. However, if you have a condition such as arthritis or chronic back pain, you may have to utilize a combination of medical tests and doctors’ evaluations of your condition. Your description of your symptoms is not enough to prove the severity of your condition.
It is important that you obtain medical treatment from a licensed medical provider. A specialist, such as an orthopedic doctor, would provide the most effective evidence for your claim. Alternative health care professionals, such as massage therapists and even chiropractors, carry little weight with the SSA.
You must provide proof of your disability onset date as well as its current severity. Test results and doctors’ office notes from the beginning of your condition to present are necessary. That medical evidence should evaluate your ability to perform activities of daily living and to work on a sustained basis, 40 hours per week.
Proving You Have Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common ailments for Americans. Nearly every adult has experienced backaches, also called lumbago, at least once in his or her life. That pain becomes an issue when it is chronic and severe.
More Americans suffer from chronic pain than any other disease, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. The National Institute of Health Statistics reported that more than 26 million American adults have frequent back pain, and it is one of the leading causes of disability in Americans under the age of 45.
It can be difficult to prove that an impairment primarily characterized by back pain is severe enough to result in your inability to work. The level of pain you experience cannot be accurately measured by any test. The following carefully documented medical evidence can help you prove chronic back pain as well as any other back injury:
Doctor’s Notes – Records showing a complete history of your condition, including onset date, severity of symptoms, diagnoses, and functionality will enable the SSA to determine whether you are disabled. Doctor’s notes must include more information than a description of your subjective symptoms, such as pain.
History of Prescriptions – A thorough history of the prescriptions you have taken for your impairment is necessary to show any progression of severity. If you began taking Ibuprofen for back pain and now need to a combination of topical pain medications, such as Ben Gay, and steroid injections into your spine, the SSA will see that the severity of your condition has progressed in a normal manner to a level that you can no longer work.
Physical Exam – Your doctor will conduct a physical exam that tests your reflexes, flexibility, sensation, muscle strength, and range of motion. These results will determine how well you can endure physical activities such as walking, sitting, bending, squatting, pushing, and pulling.
Radiological Tests – MRIs, x-rays, CT scans, and other tests can provide objective medical evidence that proves without a doubt that you have an impairment. Some tests can even show the severity of your condition. It is important that you submit to any tests that your doctor recommends in order to provide adequate proof of your condition.
Call us to speak with an attorney about obtaining Social Security benefits for back injuries in Georgia or South Carolina.