Degenerative Disk Disorder, or osteoarthritis of the spine is when some changes occurring in your spine lead to unbearable pains. The spinal disks, also called the shock absorbers of the family can show normal signs of wear and tear as people get older. However, some spinal disk changes such as 'dry out' or 'crack' can hurt more and even affect a person's daily functioning.
The degenerative disk disease, DDD is one of the most common impairments for which the SSA receives disability benefits applications for. The degenerative disk disease can also cause severe back and neck pain – at times it can also lead to nerve damage in the spine.
Although the DDD is the most common disorder in SSDI benefits applications, the SSA does apply the same set of 'grid rules' to assess whether your disability is severe enough to qualify.
SSA's Grid Rules for Degenerative Disk Disease
The degenerative disk disease can occur in people of any age. While everyone's disks get some form of damages when they age, it is more often reported in people older than 50. The SSA's grid rules apply to all the applications nonetheless. It contains of the following:
- - Your age at the time of application;
- - Your educational background;
- - Your ability to carry out certain jobs;
- - Your current occupation(s);
- - Whether/if your occupation is transferrable;
Older people with degenerative disk disease have a higher chance of qualifying for disability because even if their current occupation is transferrable in terms of ability, they might not be able to do it due to their age and any other factors due to the disease. For instance, if a person worked as a bus conductor before, they might be transferred to a clerk level position or entry level jobs if they are younger. But people over 50 and older, may not be able to get that entry level/clerk position in the first place – and even if they do, they might not be able to sit for that long periods of time to carry out their work effectively.
The SSA is aware that the employers may be reluctant to hire workers above 50 due to these very possible situations – hence, even if you do not qualify the grid rules, you may still get approved for disability benefits.
What does the SSA expect from your degenerative disk SSDI application
The degenerative disk disease, DDD is one of the other few muskoskeletal problems listed in the SSA's Blue Book of Impairments. Some other disorders of the spine listed in the Blue Book are herniated nucleus pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, vertebral fracture, spinal arachnoiditis and lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication. The SSA expects your application to contain all possible medical documentation that can prove that your disorder is severe enough to disable your daily functioning. These may include the following:
- - Your diagnosis and the date it first occurred;
- - Your physician's statement notes/comments on your diagnoses;
- - Objective evidence of disc deterioration such as X-ray reports, CT scans, CAT or MRI scans;
In addition to the above, your disability examiner will want to see clinical evidence through the following medical tests made through probably one of the SSA's own doctors – such as, nerve root compression (such as a positive result on a straight-leg-raising test), arachnoiditis (such as imaging showing thickening and swelling of nerve roots), or stenosis (such as an MRI showing narrowing of the spinal column). In addition, your disability examiner will want to see that your back problem severely affects your ability to function, such as by limiting:
- - Your ability to walk effectively;
- - The range of motion in your spine, or
- - The time you can sit or stand with changing your position or posture to less than two hours;
Moreover, your disability examiner will look for certain other indicators in the notes recorded by your treating physician, regarding decreased range of motion, reduced muscular strength - (doctors use a five point scale to test your degenerative disk; for example, 5/5 right leg strength indicates full right leg strength while 1/5 indicates severely diminished right leg strength), poor gait, and positive straight leg raises.
*Note that a degenerative disk disorder diagnosis made by a chiropractic is not accepted by the SSA. The SSA staff will need solid medical documentation and a doctor's statements in order to process your case.
Our disability attorneys advise people with a degenerative disk disorder to get tested regularly – also get a proper treatment from a medical expert or osteopath (D.O.) so you have sufficient medical records down the lane starting from the date of your first diagnosis to help with your disability claim for degenerative disk disorder.
If you need help in filing for disability application, disability appeal or help with preparing for your disability claims process, you can get counsel of our disability attorneys.