Back pain can be severely debilitating and is one of the most common types of Social Security disability claims. But these claims are frequently denied, leaving patients unable to work and without the benefits they need. Making a strong claim is essential to obtaining compensation for your back pain. You need the skilled Social Security disability attorneys of Nikolaus & Hohenadel.
Understanding Your Back Pain
There are so many causes of back pain that doctors often have a difficult time identifying why exactly a patient is suffering. This adds to the challenge of properly filing a Social Security disability claim. Among the most common reasons that people suffer are:
- Ruptured or bulging discs. Discs cushion the bones (vertebrae) in your spine, but they can rupture or bulge. This, in turn, causes pressure on a nerve. Not all disc disorders immediately cause pain, and they are sometimes discovered during the course of unrelated medical procedures.
- Back muscle and ligament strain. Heavy lifting and awkward back movements can strain your muscles and put wear on your ligaments. This strain can be aggravated if you’re not in good physical condition, and these patients often experience painful spasms.
- Spinal arthritis. An inflammatory condition, spinal arthritis can cause deterioration of the cartilage in the joints and discs in your neck and lower back. This may cause painful bone spurs, compression of the spinal cord, and pinching of nerves.
- Scoliosis. If your spine curves to the side, you may have scoliosis, which can lead to back pain. This condition is usually not detectable until middle age.
- Osteoporosis. Brittle, porous bones are side effects of osteoporosis. The vertebrae in your spine may develop compression fractures if you suffer from this disease.
Am I Eligible For Social Security Disability?
Back pain is sometimes sufficient to qualify as a disability, but that doesn’t mean the process is easy. To qualify for disability benefits, an applicant must be able to show Social Security that he or she has a medically determinable condition. The difficulty with back pain is that it often does not stem from an easily identifiable medical condition. For this reason, Social Security does not readily approve back pain disability claims.
There’s a critical difference between back pain and chronic back pain. As we grow older, it’s natural to experience back pain. This, by itself, is normally not sufficient to qualify as a disability. Rather, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will require evidence that your back pain is severe enough to be considered a disability. Chronic back pain is significant enough that it severely limits the daily activities of those suffering from it. The presence of an injury, illness, or long-standing condition that is well-documented by medical findings makes it more likely your application will be approved.
As with any Social Security disability claim, you will need medical evidence regarding your back pain. This could include X-rays, MRIs, doctor’s notes, a physical examination, and more. There must be a link between your back pain and some specifically-diagnosed medical condition. In the absence of this, it is unlikely Social Security will approve your request.
How Social Security Evaluates Your Claim
Social Security expects that most back pain victims will either recover from their condition or will otherwise be able to work despite the pain. For that reason, all but the most serious claims are rejected. The agency follows a two-step process in evaluating pain symptoms (and any other alleged symptoms.
The first step that Social Security will take is to determine whether a claimant has a “medically determinable impairment” that could reasonably be expected to produce their alleged symptoms. At this step, Social Security requires “medical signs or laboratory findings” established by a medical professional that corroborate the existence of a medical condition and that this condition could reasonably cause the alleged symptoms. Ideally, these would be positive findings on MRI, x-ray and/or EMG testing.
If the above step is satisfied, Social Security then evaluates the “intensity and persistence” of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they limit a person’s ability to perform work-like activities (for adult cases). Here, in addition to objective medical findings, Social Security considers other evidence, such as the applicant’s statements and statements from medical experts and even relatives, friends and former employers of the applicant.
Importantly, at this second step of symptom-evaluation, social security will take the following factors into account in determining how much a person is limited in performing work-like activity:
- A person’s daily activities – the more a person is able to do on a daily basis at home, the more likely they may be able to perform work activities.
- How often the symptoms occur and how long they last.
- Factors that worsen the symptoms – for example, if standing for more than a few minutes worsens pain to the point that they have to lay down for several minutes.
- Whether medication relieves the symptoms enough to work and whether the medications cause side-effects.
- Treatment other than medication, such as surgery, injections, etc.
- Any measures other than treatment an individual uses or has used to relieve pain or other symptoms – for example, having to elevate the legs for several hours a day to avoid swelling.
- Any other factors which show how pain limits functioning – for example, an inability to maintain a job, even with restrictions from a doctor.
Remember, you may need to appeal a denied claim to an administrative law judge. The more consistent your claims and statements are, with themselves and with the objective medical evidence, the more likely that a judge will find a person unable to find work within their limitations.
Contact A Lancaster Back Pain Social Security Disability Attorney
Because of the challenges in claiming back pain disability, it’s essential to have an experienced attorney. The right attorney understands Social Security disability law and is prepared to argue your case from the claims examiner to the administrative law judge. We not only help applicants file their claims, we also work on their appeals if necessary. That’s the level of comprehensive legal service you can expect from Nikolaus & Hohenadel.
If you or a loved one are suffering from back pain and want to know your legal options, give us a call today.