When Could a Spinal Cord Injury Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

man in wheelchair outsideSpinal cord injuries have devastating consequences for victims, from the loss of mobility to circulation and respiratory issues.

Many people who suffer a spinal cord injury need Social Security Disability benefits because they are unable to work. Despite the severity of the injury, you need to prove your injury meets certain criteria to qualify for disability benefits.

Sigman Janssen’s experienced Appleton Social Security Disability lawyers discuss these criteria below. If you have already applied and been denied or you are considering filing an application, we are here to help. We have assisted many people with disabilities in securing the disability benefits they needed.

Contact us today for assistance: (877) 888-5201.

What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury is an injury to the spinal cord that causes temporary or permanent damage to the motor, sensory and autonomic functions of the spinal cord. These injuries are typically caused by direct impact to the spine, which may occur in a car crash, shooting, assault or while playing sports.

Victims often suffer varying degrees of paralysis in the trunk, arms and legs. Paraplegics suffer a loss of the ability to move their legs. Their chest, stomach and hips are also affected. Quadriplegics suffer paralysis in the arms, head, neck, shoulders and chest, in addition to their lower body.

Some of the other consequences of a spinal injury could include:

  • Loss of bowel control
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Respiratory issues
  • Low blood pressure
  • Spikes in blood pressure
  • Lost sexual function
  • Chronic pain

Spinal cord injuries can be divided into two main categories:

  • Complete spinal cord injuries – The victim loses all feeling and movement below the site of the injury.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injuries – There is an incomplete break of the spinal cord, so the victim retains some amount of function below the site of the injury.

How Often Do People Suffer Spinal Cord Injuries?

More than 17,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries in the U.S. each year, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. There are hundreds of thousands of people currently living with spinal cord injuries.

What Are the Eligibility Criteria For Disability Benefits?

You may qualify for disability benefits if your condition meets the criteria for one of the listings in the Social Security Administration Blue Book. For example, there is a listing under section 11.00 – Neurological Disorders.

Section 11.08 lists spinal cord disorders that are characterized by one of three things:

Total Loss of Function

The loss of function must continue for at least three months.

Disorganization of Motor Function in Two Extremities

This disorganization must cause extreme limitations in your ability to stand up while seated, maintain balance while standing or walking, or use your upper extremities. These problems must persist for a minimum of three months.

Marked Limitation of Physical Functioning

There must also be marked limitation in mental functioning that lasts three months in a row. The limitation in mental functioning must include one of the following:

  • Understanding, remembering or using information
  • Interacting with other people
  • Concentrating, persisting or maintaining
  • Adapting or managing yourself

You might also qualify under the listing for disorders of the skeletal spine resulting in compromise of a nerve root (1.15). The compression of a nerve root must be characterized by all four of these things:

  • Neuro-anatomic distribution of one of three symptoms: pain, paresthesia and muscle fatigue
  • Radicular distribution of neurological symptoms, such as muscle weakness, sensory changes and symptoms of nerve root irritation, tension or compression
  • Imaging tests that show compromise of the nerve roots in the cervical or lumbosacral spine
  • Physical limitation of musculoskeletal functioning that has lasted 12 consecutive months or is expected to last 12 months; medical documentation must be provided to show:
    • There is a need for a mobility device (walker, crutches, cane, wheelchair)
    • Inability to use one upper extremity to independently initiate, sustain and complete work-related activity that requires fine movement; documented medical need for hand-held assistive device that requires one upper extremity or a wheeled mobility device that requires the use of one hand
    • Inability to use both upper extremities to initiate, sustain and complete work activities independently

You will need to provide detailed medical records to prove you meet the criteria for a Blue Book listing. This includes imaging tests that show your spinal cord injury, along with notes from your treating doctors.

What if You Do Not Qualify Under a Specific Listing?

If your condition does not meet the specific criteria for one of the conditions in the Blue Book, you might qualify for benefits through a medical vocational allowance. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate various factors to determine if you can work at all, or how much work you can do, including:

  • Medical problems
  • Age
  • Employment history
  • Skills
  • Education
  • And more

The SSA will need to do a residual functional capacity assessment to determine the physical limitations and restrictions you are experiencing because of your medical issues. They need to determine how much work you can do. For example, some people can only do sedentary work and cannot lift more than 10 pounds. Light work means you can sometimes lift 20 pounds and can regularly lift 10 pounds.

Seeking Disability Benefits? Call Sigman Janssen For Legal Assistance

You might think that it should be easy to obtain disability benefits for catastrophic injuries like spinal cord injuries. However, you need to provide strong evidence of your disability and it is hard to compile this evidence on your own.

That is why it is vital to find an experienced lawyer who has a proven track record with Social Security Disability applicants. Our firm has helped countless applicants obtain the benefits they needed.

Our services come with no upfront costs and the initial consultation is free of charge.

Give us a call today to learn more: (877) 888-5201.