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Social Security Disability Benefits For Scoliosis
I have been diagnosed with scoliosis. Can I get Social Security Disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?
Receiving a diagnosis of scoliosis can be the start of your Social Security disability claim. However, the main focus will beon the symptoms you experience from scoliosis 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.
Is curvature of the spine a disability?
Scoliosis refers to the abnormal sideways curvature of the human spine, changing the body’s posture and affecting its functions. In most cases, scoliosis is mild and requires no treatment. But if the curve gets worse, deformities may become more severe and eventually disabling. Some complications that result from this are chronic back pain, deformed appearance, and damage to the lungs or heart.
Symptoms of scoliosis typically start appearing during puberty, and risk factors increase as you age. Common signs of this condition include uneven shoulders, shoulder blades, waist, hips, and/or ribs. If you start having breathing difficulties, this may also be a sign that scoliosis is severe enough to affect the amount of space for your lungs or heart.
To determine if your scoliosis is disabling you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5-step process:
Step 1. Are you working with a gainful activity?
First, the SSA looks at the type of work activity you have. 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 $1,970per 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 the SSA evaluates your scoliosismore closely.
Step 2. Is your scoliosis “severe”?
Before the SSA can consider you disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic 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.
Can you get disability for scoliosis?
The SSA will find you disabled if you 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, SSA goes to Step 3.
Step 3. Does your scoliosis meet or equal the severity of a Listing?
A “listing” refers to any of the medical criteria listed by the Social Security Administration. These medical criteria are considered to be sosevere that you will be found disabled if your medicallydeterminable physical or mental impairment(s) matches them.The Adult Listing for scoliosis can be found here.
If you do not have an impairment that meets or equals oneof the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA determines what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments – called 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. Are you able to perform the jobs you’ve had in the past fifteen (15) years?
The SSA then decides 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 the SSA decides you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), you will be found not disabled. To be PRW, the workmust have beensubstantial gainful activity(SGA); performed in the fifteen (15) year relevant period; and performed long enough tolearn the job. If the SSA decides you cannot perform your past relevant work, or you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, the SSA goes on to Step 5.
Still here at Step 4, you have the “burden of proof”, which means you must present evidence. 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 scoliosis include:
- General clinical records
- Documentation of medically prescribed treatment and response
- Imaging results (MRI, CT scan, or x-ray)
- Clinical notes of specialists
In terms of specialist opinions, doctors who specialize in treating scoliosis include:
- Orthopedists/Orthopedic surgeons – These doctors specialize on the musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, nerves, joints, tendons, ligaments, and skin). It is best to find an orthopedist who further specializes on the spine.
- Neurologists/Neurosurgeons – Their specialty is on the nervous system.
- Physiatrists (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physicians) – These doctors treat medical conditions of the brain and musculoskeletal system.
Don’t just rely on your family doctor or primary care doctor for your scoliosis. If you are not treating with a specialist, the SSA may interpret this as meaning that your condition is not that serious. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you locate sources of treatment (even if you don’t have health insurance).
Step 5. Are you able to do any other type of work?
At this point, the “burden of proof” shifts to the SSA. If you cannot do your past relevant work, 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, the SSA will determine you are not disabled. If you cannot do other work, the SSA will find you disabled.
Are you over 50 years old? If so, there are special rules that may apply to your claim 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.
Because scoliosis is quite common, many people dismiss it as a simple issue in posture. But if your scoliosis is really restricting your capacity to work and live your life, you may truly need assistance. The unfortunate fact is that two-thirds of first-time claims for disability benefits are rejected. But don’t be discouraged – you may still have a good chance to receive the assistance you need.
Contact Gillette Law Group
The discomforts and complications from severe scoliosis 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