Qualifying Conditions

Back Pain and Social Security Benefits

Can You Be Found Disabled for Back Pain?

Severe back pain and/or traumatic spinal injuries are some of the most common conditions that lead people to apply for Social Security Disability. Attempting to work in any sort of job with severe back pain can be tremendously difficult. Your lumbar spine is involved in nearly every activity. Oftentimes, the person has multiple other problems with their joints, in addition to back pain, as a result of working in strenuous trades, such as factory jobs, construction trades, or other jobs involving repetitive physical labor.

If you are currently suffering from debilitating back pain that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Contact Nolan & Shafer, PLC at (231) 403-0040 to learn about your options.

Types of Back Pain That Qualify for SSD

While back pain and the impairment it causes is one of the leading grounds of disability, simply telling the Social Security Administration that you have back pain, even severe back pain, is not enough to be awarded benefits. It is critical that any disability case be supported with objective medical evidence, which most often consists of x-rays, MRIs, and/or CT scans.

Some back ailments that may qualify under the Social Security Administration regulations include:

  • Herniated (slipped or prolapsed) disc
  • Degenerative arthritis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Fractured vertebrae
  • Fused vertebrae
  • Fibromyalgia, in severe cases
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Nerve root compression
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylitis
  • Spondylolisthesis

In addition to medical evidence showing these conditions (typically x-ray or MRI evidence), most of the Social Security rules also require some or all of the following:

  • Pain radiating into the arms and/or legs
  • Limited range of motion in the spine
  • Loss of feeling or diminished reflexes
  • Positive straight leg testing
  • Inability to ambulate effective (that is, the inability to walk without assistance)

What If My Back Pain Doesn’t Meet the Disability Listings?

If you cannot prove any of the above conditions but suffer from back pain that makes you unable to work, you may still have options so long as you have medical evidence to document and support your claim. In this case, the Social Security Administration may look at your “residual functional capacity,” or RFC. The five categories of residual functional capacity are:

  1. Sedentary
  2. Light
  3. Medium
  4. Heavy
  5. Very Heavy

The exertional category you fall into generally depends on your ability to stand and/or walk, along with the amount of weight you can lift consistently. However, your residual functional capacity takes into account your ability to complete other functions as well, including:

  • Your ability to push and/or pull (including operation of hand and/or foot controls)
  • Your ability to climb ramps and stairs
  • Your ability to climb ladders ropes and scaffolds
  • Your ability to balance
  • Your ability to stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl
  • Your ability to operate free from any mental, emotional, or psychological impairments (like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder) that limit you to unskilled work
  • Your ability to work without environmental limitations, such as being unable to work in extreme heat or cold, or not being up to work in an environment with fumes

Whether or not you are found disabled depends on how an Administrative Law Judge or other adjudicator weighs medical evidence and determines your residual functional capacity. So, as you can see, it is critical that you provide solid medical evidence of your condition, including getting properly worded statements from any treating medical providers.

Denied Disability for Back Pain? Don’t Give Up Just Yet!

Unfortunately, the reality of our healthcare and Social Security Disability systems means that the majority of people who suffer from debilitating back pain, even those who are clearly disabled, are often denied benefits the first go-around. The majority of these claims must be brought before an Administrative Law Judge at a hearing, which can be a nerve-racking process if you’re not properly prepared for what the expect. That’s where we come in.

In addition to preparing the medical evidence in your case, a member of our legal team will meet with you in person several times prior to the hearing to ensure you are prepared for the questions the judge will likely ask you. Unlike many nationwide and large firms, at Nolan & Shafer, PLC you have one attorney from the start of your claim until the end.

Call or contact us online today to discuss your back pain and options for Social Security Disability. We can be reached online or by dialing (231) 403-0040. There are no upfront fees for speaking with a member of our team, so don’t wait!


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