There is no doubt: degenerative disc disease is extremely painful and can limit mobility. While some cases are manageable with medication, if you suffer disabling degenerative disc disease due to normal aging, an accident, or another back injury, you may be eligible to draw Social Security disability for degenerative disc disease in Pittsburgh.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) only awards these benefits to people who suffer from severe cases of degenerative disc disease and cannot engage in substantial gainful activity because of it. In 2017, “substantial gainful activity” is earning more than $1,170 each month.
At Berger and Green, we can help you determine whether or not you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. We will also walk you through the application process, or assist you with your appeal if you have already received a denial.
Call us today to learn more, or to schedule your free, no-obligation initial consultation: 412-661-1400
What does it mean to be disabled?
If your health condition prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity as defined by the SSA, you may believe that is enough to qualify as disabled. This, however, is not the case. In fact, for many people, showing they make below this level is the easy part of the process.
In addition to meeting the income limit, you must show that you suffer from certain impairments that prevent you from working.
To do so, you have two options: meet the severity criteria under an SSA listing or show that your condition is so disabling that it keeps you from working any job.
What impairment listing most commonly covers degenerative disc disease?
Impairment listing 1.04, Disorders of the Spine, covers a wide range of back and spinal issues, including:
In order to qualify for benefits under this impairment listing, your back or spinal condition must compromise a nerve root, including the cauda equine, or the spinal cord itself, evidenced by:
- Nerve root compression that includes nerve pain, limited range of motion, atrophy, muscle weakness, loss of sensation, and loss of reflexes;
- Spinal arachnoiditis that causes burning pain or other similar conditions and requires you change positions frequently to ease discomfort; or
- Lumbar spinal stenosis that includes pain and weakness, and limits mobility
How can I prove I meet the criteria in the impairment listing?
Proving you suffer from intense pain that limits your ability to work can be notoriously difficult. With the help of your physician, a disability lawyer from Berger and Green can help you gather the evidence needed to show the SSA that you meet its qualifications.
When the SSA receives your application, those tasked with reviewing your claim are looking for objective evidence to show that you suffer from degenerative disc disease and that this causes a disability. Often this evidence includes:
- Notes from your doctor showing a diagnosis
- X-rays, scans, or other imaging of the affected area
- A positive result on a straight-leg test
- Imaging showing thickening, swelling, or narrowing of the nerve roots or spinal column
Your evidence also needs to include proof of how this condition prevents you from walking, working, or completing activities of daily living. It is especially important to provide documentation showing how it affects your:
- Range of motion
- Ability to stand for extended periods of time
- Ability to sit without changing positions
What happens if I do not qualify under the impairment listing?
While some who apply for Social Security Disability benefits meet the criteria outlined under an impairment listing, others do not. This is not uncommon, and just means you need different documentation to get the benefits you deserve.
If you do not qualify for benefits under an impairment listing, you can apply for benefits based on your residual functional capacity (RFC). Obtaining an RFC rating often involves your physician completing an assessment form, and having documentation of your impairments and symptoms. This form addresses both your remaining abilities, as well as the severity of your disabilities.
Once it receives the information collected by your doctor, the SSA will estimate your ability to work. In some cases, an examiner may find you are able to perform light or sedentary work based on your ability to do things such as sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, reach, and bend.
For many with severe degenerative disc disease, however, the limitations often rule out even sedentary work. If this is the case, the SSA should approve you for benefits — if you meet the work credit or income limit criterion. You may also qualify if you are prevented from doing light work depending on your age and past work experience.
Where can I get help with my application in Pittsburgh?
If you cannot work due to the symptoms of your degenerative disc disease but are not sure you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits — or if the SSA has already denied your initial application for benefits — Berger and Green can help. Contact us today to learn more about the process and how you may be able to meet the criteria for benefits.
You can reach our Pittsburgh office by calling 412-661-1400 today.