If you suffer from a spinal cord injury or disease, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). There are two ways to qualify for SSDI benefits for spinal cord disorders:
- meeting Listing 11.08 as defined by SSA, or
- if the impairment does not meet the criteria of a listing, it can medically equal the criteria of a listing.
In either case, your condition must limit your functioning so much that you cannot work and earn a living. The following presents the basics you need to know about filing for critical SSDI benefits you need and deserve, or appealing a claim denial for SSDI benefits for spinal cord disorders.
Spinal Cord Disorders and Social Security Disability
When your nerve roots or spinal cord become damaged due to disease or injury, you can lose some – or all – of your ability to move. In some cases, you may just feel numbness in certain areas of your body. More severe cases, though, can cause people to experience paralysis in their arms, legs, or even from the neck down.
Obviously, people who cannot move tend to have trouble finding work, so the Social Security Administration has chosen to recognize spinal cord disorders as potentially disabling conditions. All you need to do to get Social Security disability benefits is qualify.
That means either matching a listing in the Listings of Impairments or proving that your issue is the equivalent of a condition included in the Listings.
The Listing of Impairments is essentially the SSA’s disability encyclopedia. In this extensive guide, you’ll find each and every disabling condition that the SSA recognizes clearly defined, along with medical criteria that you must match if you hope to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. If you can match the requirements in the listing, you will be eligible for benefits.
Sadly, the second qualification method for getting SSDI benefits for spinal cord disorders is not quite so straight forward. To prove equivalency, you need to find a way to convince the SSA that your impairment is just as bad as a condition that they have already included in the Listings.
This is a much more complicated task, one that will require a skilled disability lawyer who understands how the SSA works and has successfully handled this type of case in the past.
Before you choose that route, you should always first see if you can match the listing.
SSA Listing 11.08 – What Criteria Must Be Met?
The medical criteria for getting SSDI benefits for spinal cord disorders are fairly straightforward. You need to be suffering from one of the following issues after at least three months have passed since the incident:
- Impaired communication or speech due to motor or sensory aphasia that continues for at least 3 months following the disorder;
- Disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities persisting for 3 consecutive months after the disorder;
- Impaired physical function AND one of the following impairments persisting for 3 months or more after the disorder:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying; or
- Interacting with others; or
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
- Adapting or managing oneself.
To help you prove your case, the SSA recommends using any of the following medical tests:
- Anorectal monometry
- Cerebrospinal fluid
- Deep tendon reflexes
- Dejerine’s sign
- Magnetic resonance imaging of spinal cord and spine
- Magnetic resonance neuropathy
- Motor evoke potentials
- Somatosensory evoked potentials
- Straight leg raising test
If you get positive results on any of these tests, it will go a long way towards helping you prove your case and win your claim.
When Equivalency Is the Only Option for Getting SSDI Benefits for Spinal Cord Disorders
Remember that it’s not the end just because you can’t match a listing with your spinal cord disorder. Equivalency is still very much an option, and even though your path will be more difficult, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have hope.
In fact, skilled Social Security disability lawyers have helped many people just like you to use equivalency to get the benefits that they need. If you have to go this route, you will use the Five Step Sequential Evaluation Process to produce evidence that shows you have been unable to work for at least 12 months due to your medical condition. If you and your attorney are able to do this effectively, you will qualify for SSDI benefits.
Learn even more about the claims process by reading our Social Security Disability eBook for free.