Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Arachnoiditis?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with arachnoiditis to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your medical condition doesn’t meet the requirements of or is the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
(2) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(3) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of arachnoiditis are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with arachnoiditis. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing for arachnoiditis, or that
- Your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Is Arachnoiditis?
Your spine is a beautiful piece of architecture. The principal building blocks are bones and nerves.
Illustration of Arachnoiditis
Arachnoiditis is inflammation of the arachnoid. The arachnoid can become inflamed, which can cause scar tissue. The spinal nerves stick together like wet spaghetti, which causes painful and debilitating symptoms.
Arachnoiditis can occur on its own or as a result of:
- Infections like osteomyelitis that has caused an infection of the spinal cord lining;
- Spinal surgery or injections into the spinal column that cause irritation or infection;
- Scar tissue from spinal surgeries;
- Nerve root compression;
or, in conjunction with other back conditions, including:
- Degenerative disc disease;
- Herniated discs;
- Failed back surgery;
- Fractured vertebrae; or
- Spinal cord injury.
What Are the Symptoms?
The common symptoms include:
- chronic pain,
- numbness and tingling of the extremities,
- difficulty with bowel and bladder function, and,
- difficulty sitting, standing and walking.
When Your Arachnoiditis Meets A Listing
Arachnoiditis is included in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.” If you meet or have the equivalent of a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the Listing for your arachnoiditis to be considered disabling. The requirements to qualify for a listing are:
- A diagnosis of arachnoiditis by a medical doctor,
- Objective evidence to confirm the diagnosis, to include either an operative note, a pathology report of a biopsy or an imaging test like an MRI, myelography and/or CT scan that includes thickening and swelling of the nerve roots and/or clumping of the nerve roots,
- Severe burning pain or other abnormal painful sensation, and
- The need to change your position or posture more than once every two hours to reduce your pain.
SSA will review your medical records and look for:
- Detailed physical examination findings, including testing for sensation, reflexes, range of motion, and your ability to sit, stand, walk, bend, and squat. Your physician must say that you have to change position or posture once every two hours,
- History of your pain, symptoms, and side effects of medication, and
- The types of treatment you have had, including pain medication, physical therapy or nerve or spinal stimulation, and the result of that treatment.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, SSA will then determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your Arachnoiditis Makes It Impossible to Work
If your arachnoiditis doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your arachnoiditis.
Residual Functional Capacity For Arachnoiditis
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed RFC forms that will explain:
- How far you can walk,
- How long you can stand and sit at one time and for an eight-hour day,
- How much and how often you can lift, stoop, squat, bend during an eight-hour day,
- Whether you have to alternate sitting and standing, and if so, how frequently,
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have psychological problems that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on the RFC form. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you could do or learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve?
Arachnoiditis can interfere not only with your daily activities but with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- File your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits.
- Appeal a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration.
- File an Application for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
Arachnoiditis can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today. Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.