Neck pain can make it difficult to work or even get a good night’s sleep. If your chronic pain or the condition that causes your pain requires medication, the side effects may also affect your ability to work a normal job. While neck pain is sometimes a minor complaint, serious or chronic pain may qualify you for disability benefits — if the pain prevents you from working. This could include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if you meet other qualifications.
The Berger and Green disability team helps hundreds of clients get the benefits they need and deserve every year. We know what Social Security Administration (SSA) disability examiners are looking for when they review your application. We can double-check your claim before you submit it. Even if the SSA already denied your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) for neck pain, we can help you recover the benefits and back pay you deserve.
Qualifying for Disability Benefits for Neck Pain
The SSA publishes a book, called the Blue Book, that outlines which impairments qualify for SSD programs. Neck pain could fall into several of these impairment categories, depending on what causes the pain and whether you suffer from any other symptoms. Most commonly, people with neck pain qualify under Section 1.04 – Disorders of the spine.
To meet this impairment listing and qualify for benefits, you must show you have an impacted nerve root or spinal cord with:
- Pain from nerve root compression;
- Muscle weakness with loss of feeling or reflexes; or
- Limited spinal movement.
Alternatively, you may qualify if your pain causes verifiable inflammation and the related compression forces you to change position frequently. In this case, frequently usually means at least once every two hours.
If you do not meet the criteria listed in Section 1.04, you might qualify under another listing. Some of the most common for people with neck pain include:
- Section 1.02, which deals with joint dysfunctions; and
- Section 14.09, which includes inflammatory arthritis.
Even if you meet the criteria, you will not receive approval for benefits unless your medical records clearly demonstrate your condition. The medical evidence necessary to prove your claim may include:
- Appropriate medical imaging, such as MRIs and x-rays;
- Notes from your doctor regarding your spinal exams;
- Documentation of your diagnosis and associated symptoms;
- Information about the range of motion in your neck;
- Any related lab testing; and
- Notes about treatment and outcomes, including any physical therapy.
Before you file your claim for disability, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about your application. Not only can he help you understand if you meet the impairment listing, he will also play a key role in helping to prove your disability. He can double-check your medical records to ensure they accurately depict your condition and limitations.
Qualifying When Your Symptoms Do Not Meet an Impairment Listing
Many people qualify for disability benefits even if they do not meet a Blue Book listing. This is possible by determining your residual functional capacity (RFC). Getting an RFC requires an evaluation of your abilities. This helps the disability examiner understand the type of work you can do, the tasks that fit your abilities, and how long you can work.
You can receive your RFC in one of three ways:
- The disability examiner reviews your application and documentation;
- Your physician completes a special worksheet based on your abilities; or
- A third-party doctor conducts an examination at the request of the SSA.
The goal of each one of these methods is to determine if you can complete a specific list of tasks related to working. If your RFC shows you cannot work any job you qualify for, you will likely receive approval for disability benefits.
Other Criteria for Qualifying for Disability Benefits
In addition to qualifying for benefits based on your disability, you will also need to meet technical qualifications for each program. If you do not meet these criteria, the SSA may issue a technical denial for your application. The program requirements differ between the SSDI and SSI programs.
SSDI Program Requirements
To qualify for SSDI, you must have:
- A sufficient work history;
- The required number of work credits based on your age; and
- A monthly earned income below the current substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit.
SSI Program Criteria
- Meet strict limits on income; and
- Have very few assets.
Get Help Filing an Appeal With the SSA
It is not easy to prove you meet the qualifications for SSD programs. Many people receive a denial in response to their initial claim. If this happened to you, you are not alone. Many people have successfully fought denials, and you can, too. Having a disability attorney throughout the process can help. We can handle every stage of your appeal.
You only have a limited time after your denial to request a hearing date, so you will need to act quickly. We need to evaluate your qualifications for benefits and request an appeals hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. While we wait for the hearing date, we will get to the bottom of why the SSA denied your original claim. Then, we can collect any evidence necessary to prove you meet the criteria to get benefits. This sometimes requires seeing another doctor or undergoing additional tests or imaging scans.
Once the hearing date arrives, we present your case to the Administrative Law Judge. Generally, we can help our clients get approved for benefits during this hearing. If the Judge refuses to overturn your denial, we can take further action to continue your appeal.
Talk to a Pittsburgh Disability Attorney About Getting SSDI or SSI for Neck Pain
The disability attorneys at Berger and Green can help you get approved for the benefits you need for your neck pain. We offer free case reviews and will double-check your application before you submit it. If you need help fighting a denial, we can walk you through the appeals process. Call us today at 412-661-1400 to learn more.