When a spinal fracture leaves you unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Spinal fractures vary in severity and impact, but if you struggle to hold a job because you cannot stand, walk, squat, lift, or do other required activities then you may want to see if you meet all of the other qualifications.
The attorneys at Berger and Green understand how stressful it is when you cannot work and do not have any other sources of income. We can help you navigate the process for recovering Social Security disability for a spinal fracture in Pittsburgh. If necessary, we can also represent you throughout the appeals process, helping you get the benefits you deserve. Call our office today at 412-661-1400 to get started.
How will a spinal fracture impact my ability to work?
How a spinal fracture affects your ability to work depends greatly on the nature of your injury and how serious it is. Spinal fractures can occur because of trauma, osteoporosis, and a number of other causes.
Compression fractures or other similar injuries to the mid- or lower spine may cause moderate to severe pain for a limited time. This pain usually increases with movement, and may last for several months, keeping you out of work. If these fractures occurred because of osteoporosis, they may recur.
Spinal fractures caused by trauma tend to be the most severe type, and sometimes involve lasting damage to the spinal cord. If you suffered this type of injury — perhaps in a car accident or a fall — you may be permanently unable to use your limbs. Some people with this type of injury cannot control their bowels or bladder, or even breathe on their own. Those with even minor spinal cord involvement often have problems with fine motor skills because of numbness and weakness in their extremities.
How can I qualify for Social Security disability payments?
You must meet four qualifications in order to draw Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments. These are:
- Your disability must have lasted or be expected to last 12 months or result in death
- You must have enough work credits to draw benefits
- You must show that you cannot engage in “substantial gainful activity”
- You must meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of “disabled”
The last qualification is typically the one that we find gives people the most trouble. It can be difficult to provide adequate proof to show that your health condition falls into one of the categories outlined in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) impairment listings. We can, however, work with your healthcare team and other medical experts to provide the documentation you need to show that your spinal fracture prevents you from earning a living.
Does my spinal fracture fit under one of the SSA’s impairment listings?
- Your vertebral fracture resulted in a compromised nerve root or spinal cord; and
- “Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with association muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine)”
If you do not meet the severity criteria, you might still have another option. You may be able to recover benefits through a medical vocational allowance. To determine whether you are eligible, your doctor can fill out a residual functional capacity form to determine what basic work duties (e.g., sitting, standing, squatting, bending, reaching, etc.) you are still able to perform despite your limitations. If your doctor determines your spinal fractures are severe enough to keep you from performing these duties, you may be eligible for a medical vocational allowance.
This is often the most difficult part for our clients to manage alone. This is especially true if you are still in recovery from your injuries, or have limited mobility. We will work with your doctor to help the SSA collect the evidence necessary to prove your disability.
What if I do not qualify for SSDI?
Not everyone qualifies for SSDI benefits. If you do not have enough work credits, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
To recover SSI payments, you must have limited income and limited assets ($2,000 for individuals, $3,000 for couples).
How much can I draw in disability benefits?
There are a number of factors that go into how much you can draw from SSDI. The SSA uses a complicated formula, and the total varies from case to case. Primarily, the amount you can draw depends on your average income over your career.
For SSI, you can recover up to the year’s federal benefit rate (RBF).
What if the SSA denies my disability claim?
As you can see from above, the listing is full of complicated jargon that prompts misunderstandings and mistakes from claimants. This leads to hundreds of thousands of denials a year. Do not let this scare you. While it does make things more difficult, you do have options to appeal the denial and get the benefits you deserve.
If you have not already discussed your case with a Social Security disability lawyer, now is the time. We can often spot the reason for denial with a quick review of your application and documentation, and help you rectify the issue in the appeals process. Our experience with Social Security appeals works in your favor, helping smooth the often-complicated process.
Make sure you call us immediately; you only have 60 days from when you received your denial to file for appeal.
What is the appeals process like? Is it worth it to file an appeal?
The SSA approves many people who appeal the initial decision, so it pays to file an appeal. We can help you navigate the entire process, allowing you to focus on your health and healing.
The Social Security disability appeals process includes:
- Hearing with an administrative law judge: Once you receive a denial, we will request a Reconsideration or a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). During this hearing, we will plead your case and help persuade the ALJ to reverse the SSA’s initial decision.
- Appeals Council review: If the ALJ upholds the initial decision, we can take your case to the Appeals Council.
- Federal court review: If you disagree with the Appeals Council’s decision, we can take your case to a federal court if it is appropriate to do so.
This process is complicated and lengthy, but it is worth it when you consider how much these benefits will help you and your family.
Where can I get help recovering Social Security disability benefits for my spinal fracture in Pittsburgh?
The Social Security disability lawyers at Berger and Green know how difficult it can be to get the benefits you deserve after a Pittsburgh spinal fracture or other back injury. Let us help you navigate the claims process, or appeal your denial.
Call us today at 412-661-1400 to schedule a time to discuss your claim with one of our Social Security disability attorneys.