Spinal stenosis occurs when the open spaces in the spine become narrow. This can impact the spinal cord and the nerves that travel throughout the spine resulting in numbness, pain, and muscle weakness. If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and can no longer work as a result, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits.
Disability benefits can offset lost income and help cover the costs of day-to-day necessities. Unfortunately, the process of applying for disability benefits can be long and complicated. The following article is intended to shed some light on the subject and make the application process easier for individuals who have spinal stenosis.
There are two main federal disability benefit programs run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). These programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
SSDI benefits are offered to disabled workers who have paid Social Security taxes throughout their careers. SSI benefits are offered to disabled individuals who fall within specific income specifications. It is important to learn about each program so that you can select the one that you best qualify for. Learn about these two types of benefits here.
Once you have determined which benefit program is the best fit for your needs, you should consult the SSA’s Blue Book to make sure that you meet the medical requirements for disability benefits.
The requirements for applicants with spinal stenosis can be found under Blue Book listing 1.04—Disorders of the Spine. This listing states that, in order to qualify for disability benefits, individuals with spinal stenosis meet these criteria:
- Applicants must provide medical evidence of nerve root compression that causes pain, limited motion of the spine, muscle weakness, and—if there is involvement of the lower back—positive straight-leg raising test; or
- Applicants must have spinal arachnoiditis, confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging. Applicant must experience severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every 2 hours; or
- Applicant must have lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, proven by appropriate medically acceptable imaging. Applicant must experience chronic pain and weakness and must experience difficulty walking and moving around.
If you do not understand these requirements or do not have the medical evidence needed to prove your eligibility, it may be in your best interest to sit down with your doctor to review this Blue Book listing. He or she will be able to let you know if you meet these requirements and will help you gather the medical records you will need.
Access the Blue Book listing here.
Submitting Your Application
Before submitting your initial application for disability benefits, you should collect copies of all relevant medical records. These records will serve as proof of your disability. Without them, your claim may be delayed or even denied. For a complete list of medical and non-medical records that you will need visit the Adult Disability Interview Checklist.
Once you are ready to begin the application process, you can do so online, by telephone, or in person with the help of an SSA representative. Each of these is a valid way of submitting your application—choose the way that works best for you. The actual application is made up of several different forms. You should take your time when completing these forms and make sure your answers are accurate, consistent, and detailed.
After submitting your application, you will not receive a decision for several months. If for any reason your application is denied, you should appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving your notice of denial. Unfortunately many initial applications are denied and claimants must navigate the appeals proceedings. If this happens to you, do not lose hope—many more applicants are approved during the appeals process than during the initial application.
For more information regarding spinal stenosis and Social Security Disability benefits, visit the following page at disability-benefits-help.org.