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"Ohhh My Back!": Social Security Disability and Spine Disorders

In NEPA we have a lot of people who have held physically demanding jobs for many years. People sometimes refer to these jobs as "back breaking." Or sometimes people have been in serious or other car accidents and have some type of permanent damage. Back and Spine conditions, diseases, and pains can be anywhere on the spectrum from an occasional pain that once in a while limits someone's movements that an aspirin can take address to near constant pain that severely limits your ability and requires heavy medication. Depending on where someone falls on this spectrum, and who they chose as their attorney, a Social Security Judge is going to look at all the evidence and either say "meh/eh/so what (but in legal terms)" or "this person is seriously disabled and meets the legal definition of disability." Here are some things the Judge will consider.

The Judge is going to want to know everything about the conditions and functioning of your spine including the cartilage, the membranes, the discs, the nerve canals, any bone spurs, the discs, the spacing of the vertebrae, any herniated discs, and any degenerative disc disease, among other things. This includes seeing recent CT Scans, X-Rays and/or MRIs the cover all of the spine, and diagnoses from doctors, preferably specialists like Neurologists and/or Orthopedic Surgeons. The Judge is also going to want to know what you have done to limit the effect of these conditions on your mobility and ability to work. In a nutshell have you strictly followed all of your doctors orders for a significant amount of time?

Sometime I have people contact me and tell me in a very serious tone "I have degenerative disc disease," thinking they have a case. Many things in medicine sound much worse than they really are. Degenerative Disc Disease is one of them. This doesn't mean you have no case if you have it but alone most often would not have you meet the legal definition of disabled. A qualified attorney is your best bet for evaluating the strength or weakness of your claim if you have a spine disorder or back problem and maximizing the chances of winning your case if you go to court.

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