Degenerative disk disease is one of the leading cause of back and neck pain causing disorders in daily functioning in Americans. The degenerative disk disease is caused by the prevalence of normal changes occurring in the body causing lower back and neck pains. People with degenerative disk disorder, DDD can feel sharp pains radiating in lower back, legs and neck and weakness and numbness related to it.
How does the SSA view Degenerative Disk Disorder?
Despite its name, the degenerative disk disorder is not a disease – in fact, it is a direct result of the wear and tear of the pelvic bones in the lower vertebral column due to aging. The SSA understands the very nature of this impairment and the symptoms related to it, hence it has included the degenerative disk disorders into its list of 'muskoskeletal problems' in the Blue Book of Impairments. Hence, the SSA uses the same set of grid rules listed in general rules for medical and non-medical requirements to meet the eligibility for disability benefits application. You can read more on SSA's Grid Rules for Degenerative Disk Disorders here.
The SSA uses a list of conditions and symptoms and has grouped them into four major categories in the muskoskeletal problems. These include:
- - Bone Fractures
Although fractures are at most times instantly accepted for disability, especially for older people above 50, the SSA does require you to meet the non-medical requirement – that is, you must be able to prove that the fracture is projected to be lasted at least 12 months.
- - Spinal Damage
This is a very often reported problem in older people aged over 55 and is estimated to be the common most problem that disability applicants claim benefits for. In this case, again, the disability examiner looks to determine whether your spinal disorder affects your ability to perform standard work tasks, move, sit or stand for longer periods of time.
- - Limb Amputations
The SSA requires at least two disks to be amputated in order to qualify for SSDI. In addition, you must also prove to your disability examiner that you are unable to perform substantial gainful activity, SGA despite your prosthetic devices.
- - Joint Disorders
This includes disorders involving the knees, shoulders, hips, wrists, ankles etc. The SSA's disability examiner will assess how these joint disorders affect your daily functioning, for instance, lifting, walking, pushing, pulling, standing, sitting, or performing other motor skills. Your disability examiner will need proves to find out whether you can perform substantial gainful activity, SGA despite your joint disorders with some medical/non-medical accommodation.
The degenerative disk disease is among the spinal disorders as discussed, among the list. DDD is the most common problem due to which disability applicants apply for SSDI. However, does that mean that having degenerative disk disorder will mean an automatic qualification? The short answer is, no. The SSA will determine if your disability is severe enough to A) last more than 12 months and B) is disabling enough to prevent you from performing substantial gainful activity.
With that said, the most common reason why people with degenerative disk disorder are denied benefits is the wrong execution of their disability benefits application. Since, the trauma of the problem is severe enough, there are some disability application with degenerative disk disorder that are unable to communicate with the SSA their symptoms, conditions or how their disability is affecting their daily functioning. So, our disability attorneys have compiled some tips on winning your disability application with degenerative disk disorders.
Tips on Winning your Disability Application with Degenerative Disk Disorder (DDD)
- I.Get Medical Treatment Regularly
Your disability examiner, DE at the SSA takes medical records very seriously. Disability examiners or the administrative law judges, ALJs reviewing your disability appeal may not find it pleasant having to dig into your medical history and finding no evidence of disability such as medical reports, pathology scans that is CAT scans, MRI scans etc. Hence, it is not only important to secure your medical documentation but also get yourself regularly checked with a doctor so you can prove to the SSA that you got the treatment that was necessary, regularly and are still unable to perform substantial gainful activity, SGA.
- II.Make Your Doctor Your Friend
Due to the very nature of the human beings, doctors and physicians are likely to be more sympathetic and responsive to a returning patient with degenerative disk disorder than one they have seen only once or twice in their medical practice. This also makes it easier for the doctor to reach the source of your problems, devise better treatment plans for your disorder and even back you up during the times you do not feel like following the prescribed treatment, for instance, physiotherapy. In addition to this, if your doctor is your 'friend' means that you have developed a sympathetic-empathetic doctor-patient relationship due to frequent treatment visits, then they may be more comfortable to testify for your disability application.
- III.Communicate with Your Doctor
While visiting a medical doctor, M.D. or an osteopath, D.O. you may need to communicate more than what they ask you, during the visits you make for diagnosis and treatments. This is because a doctor or a physician is more likely to be focused on the strictly medical diagnosis and treatment rather than other physical symptoms that, for instance, a physiotherapist might ask. So, if you have difficulty bending, crouching, stooping, you must let your doctor know specifically. The disability examiner reviewing your case for degenerative disk disease is very likely to look for these symptoms that is having difficulty to bend, crouch, sit, stand, lift, stoop or bend - to determine how it affects your daily functioning and work life. For these reasons, your disability examiner may also be asking you similar questions to the following:
- -"Are you able to sit for longer periods of time in the same position"?
- -"Are you able to keep standing in the same position for longer periods of time, example more than 30 minutes"?
- -"Are you able to bend comfortably and pick things up"?
- -"Are you able to use a vaccum cleaner"?
- IV.Have Friends/Family Testify for your Disability
Although disability examiners are often times more inclined to take your doctor/physician and employer's statements for your disability symptoms, they may at times also call your friends and family to testify to your symptoms. Hence, it is very important to keep friends and family updated about your symptoms for degenerative disk disorder.
Due to the very nature of degenerative disk disorders, many times the disability applicants are denied benefits based on these statements. Hence, it is very important to be represented by a disability attorney since the disability examiners are not allowed to contact the claimants or their relatives directly. They can only do it through their disability representatives, unless the claimant has authorized the disability examiner to proceed without his/her representative.
Hence, having a disability attorney representing your case for degenerative disk disease will greatly increase your chances of winning disability benefits. You can get counsel of our disability attorneys if you need help filing for application or a disability appeals process.