Back pain is experienced by everyone at some point in their lives. Most of the time, this back pain will go away after some adjustment and treatment, whether it is due to bad posture or a minor injury, for example. Unfortunately, for some people, back pain can be a chronic condition that affects their quality of life. Whilst this is not the only reason, this can commonly occur with age, with certain conditions being the main culprits:
- Degenerative disc disease.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Nerve root or spinal cord compression.
- Herniated discs.
This pain can have a significant effect on your quality of life and, therefore, your ability to make an income and properly support yourself. In that case, social security disability benefits could be a way to help support yourself, whether that be medically or by way of general living costs. These, however, as will be explained, can be difficult to obtain and involve a long and complicated application process.
The Law Place can help you to increase your chances of being approved for disability benefits. Our dedicated team, with over 75 years of experience, prioritize the attorney-client relationship and will be attentive to your personal experience. We can provide you with a free case evaluation with a social security disability attorney to help you understand your case and your chances of receiving social security disability insurance.
Contact The Law Place at (941) 444-4444 to receive your free legal advice today.
Is Chronic Pain a Disability?
The definition for disability adopted by the Social Security Administration provides that, in order to qualify for disability benefits, you must have a severe “medically determinable” physical or mental impairment. This means that your condition must be objectively provable. This is generally through lab tests and objective symptoms, but symptoms on their own are not enough to prove disability in the eyes of the SSA. As a result of this, only claiming that you have chronic pain is not sufficient to qualify for disability benefits. You need to provide objective medical evidence.
However, it is not impossible to qualify for disability benefits if you have chronic pain. If you have objective medical evidence (the results of a physical exam, lab tests, x-rays, etc.) that you have a physical impairment that causes you severe pain, then you could qualify for disability benefits.
In addition to the above, if your medical records state that you have a medical impairment that is known to cause pain, then you could qualify for disability benefits. The key to both mental and physical impairments is that they have been diagnosed by a qualified medical professional.
The SSA also requires that the impairment, whether physical or mental, has lasted for 12 or more months. As a result of this, it can help your case if you have repeated diagnoses over a period that has lasted more than 12 months.
Therefore, under the SSA’s definition, chronic pain can be classed as a disability as long as it is a severe “medically determinable” physical or mental impairment that has lasted 12 months or longer. Having a defined disability brings you part of the way to qualifying for disability benefits. There are still more steps that need to be taken before the SSA will determine that your impairment qualifies for disability benefits.
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Do You Qualify for Disability for Back Pain?
Following what was previously discussed, back pain can qualify as a disability, but it needs to come from a severe “medically determinable” physical or mental impairment that has lasted 12 months or longer. Therefore, if you do not have a diagnosed impairment that causes your chronic back pain, then, unfortunately, you are not classed as having a disability by the SSA and cannot qualify for disability benefits. As a result, it is important, if you have chronic back pain and you suspect that it may be the result of a diagnosable condition, to get a diagnosis and appropriate medical records (for example, an x-ray that shows an abnormality of your spine or spinal canal) so that you can begin the process of potentially getting disability benefits for your chronic back pain.
Which Back Pain Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
The Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, more generally known as the Blue Book, lists a number of impairments that the SSA considers severe enough to negatively affect a person’s ability to work and the criteria that warrant the provision of disability benefits. Whilst there is no specific listing for chronic back pain, there are a number of listings for conditions that can cause chronic back pain. Many of these impairments fall under section 1.00 of the Blue Book, which provides for musculoskeletal disorders. Some examples of conditions that can cause chronic back pain that are specifically listed in the Blue Book include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Nerve compression.
- Spinal arachnoiditis.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis.
It is important to note that if you have chronic back pain due to a listed condition, this is not enough in itself to qualify you for social security disability benefits. You have to show that your chronic back pain affects your ability to work and your daily living – this is known as functional limitations or “residual functional capacity.” This can range from difficulties walking to a need to change positions often.
What if the Social Security Administration Does Not Approve Me for Social Security Disability Benefits?
There are a number of barriers to receiving social security disability benefits, so there is a possibility that you may not be able to receive benefits for your severe back pain through that method. There is another way to receive benefits to help you through daily life if you find that you are unable to work, which is called medical-vocational allowance.
In order to apply for medical-vocational allowance, you need to complete a residual functioning capacity form. This is an extremely detailed form that will ask you about your ability to perform specific tasks, such as how long you can stand, how far you can walk, and how frequently you need to be repositioned. It also asks about some restrictions you may have, such as whether you can lift more than five pounds and whether you can squat and reach. It is important to answer these questions carefully, as the form has a significant impact on whether you are eligible for the medical-vocational allowance.
It is a good idea to also get your doctor to fill out an RFC form for you as well. It is lesser-known that you can do this, but it can significantly increase your chances of receiving benefits.
If the SSA decides, after reviewing your RFC, that you have functional limitations that mean you are unable to perform any type of job, but you do not fall under a listing in the Blue Book, then you can be approved for benefits under a medical-vocational allowance.
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How Much Does It Cost to Treat Chronic Back Pain?
A study from 2020 revealed that low back and neck pain incurred the highest amount of health care spending amongst a wide range of conditions. The spending on these conditions was estimated at $134.5 billion, with this figure rising to $380 billion when combined with all other musculoskeletal conditions (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis).
Whilst it can be argued that a reason for this high figure is that back and neck pain is common, a more significant reason, which has a great effect on patients suffering from more severe symptoms, is the cost of diagnosis and treatment of extreme back pain. These costs can be incurred from medical tests, pain medication, doctor visits, and physical therapy. In addition, back surgery can cost tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, meaning that a number of people are forced to suffer due to the extremely high costs of treating the root of the problem.
Considering the cost of chronic, debilitating back pain and how it can impact your ability to work, the importance of receiving social security disability benefits cannot be overstated. This is why, at The Law Place, we want to help you both fully understand the process of applying for social security disability benefits and ensure you know the ways you can maximize your chances of getting accepted for disability benefits. Chronic pain can be debilitating, and we do not want you to suffer more due to the somewhat complicated process involved in applying for social security disability benefits.
How Long Do I Have to Wait Before I Get a Decision on My Social Security Disability Benefits?
Much the same as the process of applying for social security benefits, the wait for a decision on your social security disability benefits will likely take a long time. Generally, you will have to wait a few months to get a decision on whether you qualify for disability benefits and then some more on top until your disability benefits begin. This can be understandably frustrating, considering how long the process has already taken. However, if you have waited more than five months to receive your benefits, then you will be given back pay in addition to your monthly disability benefit payment to compensate for your wait.
Can I Appeal the Decision Made by the Social Security Administration?
If you have been denied benefits, then you can file an appeal. This means that your claim will once again be considered by the SSA. If, though, they dismiss your appeal, you can request a hearing. This hearing will be brought before an administrative law judge and will be held at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.
The hearing involves the claimant being questioned, both by the administrative law judge and a vocational expert. The vocational expert’s questioning will aim to discover whether it is possible for the claimant to work. The questions will touch on the topics of the claimant’s medical conditions, education, transferrable skills, and age, just to name a few examples.
If you are taking your case for social security disability benefits to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, then it is a good idea to hire a disability attorney. It can be complicated to understand all of the medical documentation that is necessary to put forward a good case, so a disability lawyer can provide you with clarity and help in creating the strongest case possible.
Contact The Law Place Today About Your Chronic Back Pain Disability Claim!
Chronic back pain can affect your quality of life significantly, and having to balance this with the difficulty of applying for disability benefits can be an extremely daunting task. This is why it is important to consult with a disability lawyer to make the process as smooth as possible.
Our dedicated team, with over 75 years of combined experience, wants to help you make your disability claim so that you can focus fully on treating your chronic back pain. If you contact us, we can provide you with a free evaluation of your case with an experienced disability lawyer to help you gain a better understanding of the process of obtaining social security disability benefits and how this applies to your case.
Contact The Law Place today for a free consultation with one of our social security disability lawyers at (941) 444-4444.