November 29, 2012

Social Security Disability Benefits For Back Pain

As an Indiana Social Security attorney, the majority of my clients suffer from back pain. I personally have occasionally experienced back pain that makes it hard to move around, and I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if the pain was present all of the time. I believe it would be difficult, if not impossible, to work a full time job if this was happening to me on a constant basis. I can sympathize with my clients when they describe their pain to me, but I also realize sympathy is not what they want. They want to be able to provide for themselves and their families when they are unable to work due to back problems. It is important for Social Security disability claimants to know there is a very specific way the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at impairments involving the spine.

One of the first things the SSA looks at when examining claims involving the spine is whether or not the individual meets or equals a “Listing”. The SSA publishes a set of guidelines that details what the SSA considers to be disabling conditions. Listing 1.00 covers the musculoskeletal system.  Listing 1.04 specifically covers disorders of the spine, and in order to meet it you must have objective evidence (e.g., medical tests or imaging) of your impairment. MRIs can be of great importance when attempting to show you meet or equal this listing. You usually cannot depend on the SSA to send you for the appropriate testing and imaging; instead your own physician must conduct testing or refer you for testing that proves you have the required criteria. When I am trying to prove that a client meets or equals this listing, I send questionnaires to the treating physicians requesting they provide relevant details about the client’s condition.

In my experience practicing this type of law in Indiana, most individuals do not meet or equal a listing.  However, it is still possible to be found disabled without meeting the listing.  Usually, to show that my clients are disabled due to back problems, I have to show that they have such a reduced physical capacity that they simply cannot perform the duties required to work a full time job.  If you are unable to sit, stand, or walk for the lengths of time employers require from full-time employees, you may win your claim.  The pain you experience from your back may also force you to lie down during the day.  Vocational experts at hearings typically testify that (literally) laying down on the job is not tolerated by employers.  Also, if your pain will keep you off-task or unable to perform your job duties for too much time during a workday, you may also be considered unemployable.

So what do you do if you are unable to work due to back pain?  Apply as soon as possible.  It is a common myth that you must wait twelve months after becoming disabled before you can apply for benefits – it’s simply not true.  To meet the “duration” requirement for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you only need to have a condition that has lasted or is expected to last twelve months.  I have represented hundreds of clients and understand how confusing this process can be.  I provide a free case evaluation and can answer most questions over the telephone.

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