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Social Security Disability Benefits For Nerve Root Compression

I have been diagnosed with compressed nerve root. Can I apply for Social Security disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?

 

Receiving a diagnosis of Nerve Root Compression is only the beginning.  A Social Security disability claim focuses usually on the symptoms you experience from compressed nerve root and how those symptoms affect your ability to engage in physical and mental work-related activities eight (8) hours per day, five (5) days per week.

A compressed nerve root in the spine can be one of the most frustrating and painful physical conditions you can experience.

Is Lumbar Radiculopathy a disability?

Nerve root compression, otherwise known as Lumbar Radiculopathy, refers to a disease of the lumbar spinal nerve root. The symptoms of a compressed nerve root can vary widely depending on where the affected nerve is located, but in general, it involves pain, numbness, or weakness in the buttocks and legs.This is caused by a compression of the spinal nerve root which causes pain in the leg rather than in the lumbar spine. This is also known as “referred pain.”

Nerve root compression ranges from mild to severe. Mild nerve root compression can be appropriately treated with medications and other measures, and may not require surgical treatment. Nerve root compression that is severe enough to cause weakness in the arms or legs requires prompt diagnosis and treatment.Diagnosis may require electro-diagnostic testing,neuro imaging, and systemic testing for underlying disorders.

There is a 5-step process that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to decide if you are disabled.

Step 1.  Are you working?

As the first step, SSA would consider your work activity.  If you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) you will not be found disabled.  The amount you must earn to be working at SGA changes each year. For 2018 it is $1,180 per month if you are not blind and $1,970 per month if you are blind.  If you are working, and your earnings average more than the SGA limit, then you will not be found disabled.  If you are not working, or your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your compressed nerve root and any other physical or mental conditions are considered.

Step 2.  Is your medical condition “severe”?

To have the SSA determine that you are disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic or rudimentary work activities—such as sitting; standing; walking; lifting; carrying; understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions; making simple work-related decisions; responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work stress; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting.

To be deemed disabled, you must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) that is severe and has lasted or is expected last one (1) year or end in death. If your medical condition is not that severe, you will not be found to meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits.  If your condition is that severe, the SSA goes to Step 3.

Step 3.  Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of a Listing?

The Social Security Administration maintains a listing of medical criteria that are considered to be so severe that you will be found disabled if your medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) matches them.  The Adult Listing for Nerve Root Compression can be found here.

If you do not have an impairment that meets or equals one of the listings or the duration requirement is not met, the SSA determines what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments (your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)) and will proceed to Step 4.

RFC is a function-by-function assessment of your maximum ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities on a regular and continuing basis (8 hours a day, for 5 days a week) despite the limitations and restrictions resulting from your medically determinable impairments.In short, it is an evaluation of your capacity for full-time work.

Step 4.  Can you do any of the jobs you have performed in the past fifteen (15) years?

At step 4, SSA will decide if your medical condition prevents you from being able to work full-time at jobs you have done in the past fifteen (15) years. If SSA decides you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), you will be found as not disabled. To be PRW, the work must have been substantial gainful activity(SGA); performed in the fifteen (15) year relevant period; and performed long enough to learn the job.  If SSA decides you cannot perform your past relevant work, or you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, SSA goes on to Step 5.

You have the burden of proof at Step 4.  Two of the strongest types of evidence at this stage are medical records and the opinions of the doctors who are treating you for the conditions that are affecting your ability to work.  The strongest medical evidence is what is known as objective medical evidence, or evidence that does not rely upon what you tell your doctors.  The strongest opinions are opinions that are offered by doctors who specialize in the condition that is keeping you from working and which are supported by objective medical evidence.

Some types of objective medical evidence that can support a claim for disability based upon compressed nerve root include:

  • General clinical records
  • Documentation of medically prescribed treatment and response
  • Imaging results (MRI, CT scan, or x-ray)
  • Clinical notes of specialists, such as those describing decreased range of motion and reduced muscular strength

Doctors who specialize in treating nerve root compression include:

  • Orthopedists – specialize on the musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, nerves, joints, tendons, ligaments, and skin)
  • Neurosurgeons/spine surgeons – focus on surgical and nonsurgical treatments for the nervous system
  • Physiatrists (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physicians) – treat medical conditions of the musculoskeletal system and brain.

If you are being treated only by your family doctor or primary care doctor for your compressed nerve root, SSA may interpret this as a sign that your condition is not that serious (otherwise you would be treating with a specialist).  An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you locate sources of treatment (even if you don’t have health insurance).

Step 5.  Can you do any other type of work?

At this step, the “burden of proof” now moves to the SSA.  If you cannot do your past relevant work, the SSA looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates your medical condition, your age,education, past work experience, and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you can do other work, SSA will determine that you are not disabled. If you cannot do other work, the SSA will find you disabled.

For applicants after the age of 50, there are special rules that may apply that can result in a finding of disability even if there is some other work you could perform on a full-time basis. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will be familiar with these rules and can ensure that they are considered in the evaluation of your case.

Contact Gillette Law Group

The discomforts and complications from severe Nerve Root Compression can deeply affect your work, your earnings, and your life overall. If you believe you truly need assistance, do not be discouraged by the strict application process for disability benefits. We at the Gillette Law Group can give you get the best chance at the benefits you need and deserve.

Your consultation with us is free, so don’t hesitate to talk to us. Call us today at (855) 873-2604

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