October 21, 2019

Qualifying for Social Security with a Spinal Disorder

The process for receiving disability benefits can be difficult for applicants and their families. Our guest blogger, Cendy Moliene who works for Disability Benefits Help, has offered her assistance by providing some insight on how to quality for Social Security benefits after a spinal cord injury.

If you or a loved one has ever been in this situation, you know just how valuable resources like this can be. Check out what Cendy has to say!

If you or someone you love has a spinal disorder or recently experienced a spinal cord injury, you may be eligible for financial aid.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly disability benefits for people who are unable to work for at least 12 months due to a serious condition. Depending on the severity of your spinal disorder and your mobility, you may qualify for help.

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Medical Eligibility for Disability

Whenever the SSA receives an application for disability benefits, it will compare your claim to its own medical criteria for eligibility, known colloquially as the Blue Book. If your condition’s symptoms match what’s outlined in the Blue Book, you should be approved for benefits. Qualification will vary depending on what condition you have.

For example, here’s how someone could be approved with a spinal cord injury:

1. You’ve completely lost function in your arms, legs, or both. OR

2. You have difficulty moving at least two limbs, which results in the inability to “ambulate effectively.” The SSA defines the inability to ambulate as being unable to perform any one of the following movements:

  • Stand from a seated position
  • Balance while standing
  • Walk without use of a walker, two crutches, or a wheelchair

3. You have some physical limitations (but not as severe as the criteria outlined in #2), plus you have difficulty in any one of the following areas of mental function:

  • Understanding and remembering information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating and completing tasks
  • "Managing oneself," which essentially means controlling emotions in a work setting

Other spinal disorders, like degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, and traumatic brain injuries will have separate medical criteria for approval. The entire Blue Book can be found online, so you can always review it with your doctor to see if you’ll qualify.

A good rule of thumb is if you’re unable to walk more than a block or so without assistance, you’ll almost certainly medically qualify.

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Starting Your Application

The easiest way to apply for Social Security disability benefits is online on the SSA’s website. If you are unable to type for extended periods of time, you can always ask a family member or loved one to apply on your behalf.

If you would prefer to apply with assistance from an SSA representative, or if you are applying on behalf of a minor child, you will need to do so at your closest Social Security office. Call the SSA toll free at 1‑800‑772‑1213 to make an appointment to apply in person.