Back Pain Disability
Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Low Back Pain or a Lumbar Spine Disorder?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder 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 low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder. She has had back surgery herself and knows how limiting back pain can be. That is why 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, 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 Are The Causes of Chronic Back Pain and Symptoms?
Your spine is a beautiful piece of architecture. The principle building block is bone, which can have structural problems like degenerative disc disease, stenosis, facet arthrosis, osteophytes, bone spurs, foraminal narrowing, or osteoporosis. Any one of these structural problems can cause pain or dysfunction.
Between the bones of your spine are discs that allow for movement of your spine. The disc is a pad of cartilage or disc that has a tough outer layer called the annulus and a soft inner layer called a nucleus. It is like a jelly-filled lifesaver.
When a herniated disc occurs, a portion of the nucleus pushes out through a tear in the annulus. This can irritate the nerves of your spine, which carry electrical signals from your brain to your legs and feet.
The common symptoms of a herniated disc can include a radiating pain called sciatica, with tingling and numbness that starts in your buttock and travels down your leg. You might also have back pain and numbness with weakness of your legs.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease also can cause chronic back pain that can flare up with severe lower back pain, which can radiate into the hips down to the knee.
A narrowing of the spine called spinal stenosis can cause pain or numbness in your back and legs. It can result in weakness and a loss of sensation in your legs. Severe cases of spinal stenosis can result in bowel or bladder problems.
When Your Low Back Pain or Lumbar Spinal Disorder Meets A Listing
Quite frankly, it is difficult to get approved for Social Security disability under the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments” for spinal disorders. Your physicians did not go to medical school to learn how to write a report for SSA.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the Listing for your low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder to be considered disabling. SSA will review your medical records and look for the following:
- A specific low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder diagnosis,
- A history of your symptoms,
- Neurological findings on physical examination that are consistent with low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder, and
- Results of objective testing like MRI, CT scans, or myelogram that document the basis of the diagnosis and your pain.
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.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, SSA then will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your Low Back Pain Or Lumbar Spine Disorder Makes It Impossible to Work
If your low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder 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 low back or lumbar spine disorder.
Residual Functional Capacity For Low Back Pain Or A Lumbar Spine Disorder
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 or even medium work. Your claim will be denied. 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.
That’s why you are more likely to be granted Social Security disability benefits if you can do only sedentary or less than sedentary work. Sedentary work is defined as lifting no more than 10 pounds and being unable to sit, stand or walk for at least six hours a day.
SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed spinal 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,
- Whether you have to use any assistive devices like a back brace, cane or wheelchair,
- Whether your pain or side effects of medication make it difficult for you to concentrate or focus,
- 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 a spinal 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 can do or could 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?
Low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder 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 the Back Pain Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
Low back pain or a lumbar spine disorder can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today. Nancy 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.