Social Security Disability in Florida for Chronic Back Pain
Can I Get Social Security Disability in Florida for Chronic Back Pain?
Chronic back pain may or may not constitute a medical impairment for purposes of Social Security Disability claims.
In general, disability benefits claims for musculoskeletal disorders are reviewed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to determine whether or not they are severe enough to warrant a benefits award.
However, given the many varieties of “chronic back pain” suffered in the US, the SSA is careful to deny claims where the medical evidence provided does not establish a legitimate inability to work.
What sorts of chronic back pain will the SSA view as sufficiently severe? When will the SSA agree that your back pain limits your ability to work? What is the analysis applied by the SSA in your Social Security Disability claims case?
This Article will explore these questions, as well as the process of filing a Social Security Disability claim in Florida and the question of how an Orlando Disability Attorney can assist you.
Chronic Back Pain: What Is It, Exactly?
Back pain is one of the most common medical conditions experienced by Americans—especially those of us of A Certain Age.
It can involve a shooting, “electrical” jolt of pain, a “needle stab” in the affected area, or a burning sensation. The pain can remain where it is, or it can radiate into your gluts and/or down your leg, or both. It can be awful even if you’re sitting still or lying down, but, particularly if the sciatic nerve is involve, it can be even worse when you bend, lift objects, twist your torso, or even try to stand up too straight.
In many cases, back pain is temporary. It can be the result of a strained muscle or other passing condition, and it may be treated at home with stretching and muscle strengthening exercise.
In other instances, however, the back pain may evade home remedies and may require the assistance of a doctor. If the pain lasts longer than a few weeks or doesn’t improve over time, spread down under the knee, or causes weakness or weight-loss, a physician should be consulted.
Even in these cases, physical therapy or other prescribed treatment may address the problem, with no long-term or permanent inability to function (i.e., work) resulting.
However, long-term inability to work can certainly be a result of chronic back pain. This is particularly true where you have ruptured a disk, have some other disk disease, severe arthritis, or osteoporosis.
It literally feels like you are going to be paralyzed for the rest of your life when you suffer from severe, chronic back pain. Certainly, even a short-term dose of this condition will negate any interest you have in working or doing anything that doesn’t involve lying prone and miserable in bed.
If your doctor has informed you that this short-term misery will, in fact, be long-term or permanent, you may be right about your new inability to work.
Unfortunately, as noted above, the SSA has its own view of chronic back pain.
When Are You Entitled to Disability Benefits for Chronic Back Pain?
The Social Security Administration will award Disability benefits where a medical condition qualifies as a “disability.”
This will be the case where you are experiencing:
- An inability to perform any “substantial gainful” activity …
- By reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which …
- Can be expected to last 12 months or more or to result in death.
How Does the SSA Blue Book Describe Chronic Back Pain?
In order to obtain Social Security Disability benefits, your medical condition must be serious enough to qualify as a “disability” under the statutory definition relied upon by the SSA.
The SSA, to make that easier for itself, maintains a catalogue of impairments that, by their very nature, reach the level severity required to constitute a “disability.”
This is the so-called Blue Book listing of medical conditions.
If your condition is not listed in the SSA Blue Book, it must, alternatively, be one that is as severe as those that are listed.
So how does the Blue Book describe an “acceptably severe” condition of chronic back pain?
The Blue Book divides the various conditions from which people can suffer into 14 categories of disorder.
Chronic back pain falls largely—but not entirely—into Category 1.00: Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Within Category 1.00, the Blue Book explains that the SSA evaluates disorders of the skeletal spine or of the upper or lower extremities affecting musculoskeletal functioning. These include congenital or acquired deformities, amputations, or abnormalities involving your bones and joints or your ligaments, muscles, and soft tissues.
Likewise, under Category 1.00, the SSA includes curvatures of the spine and soft tissue injuries.
Identifiable conditions related to chronic back pain sometimes fall into other Categories in the SSA Blue Book. For example, arthritis is included in the under Category 14.00, neurological dysfunctions resulting from spinal injuries are included under Category 11.00, and spinal curvatures that affect the ability to breathe are included in Category 3.00.
Proving Your Disability to the Social Security Administration
If you think your chronic back pain is related to one of these listed conditions, you must provide evidence to the SSA that this is the case.
Your opinion or guess will not be sufficient.
The SSA will only consider objective medical evidence from an objective medical source to establish that you have one of these listed musculoskeletal or related disorders.
This “objective medical evidence” that the SSA will accept includes:
- Physical examination reports from your physician, including detailed descriptions of his or her orthopedic, neurologic, or other clinical findings related to your specific musculoskeletal disorder.
- Evidence from both medical and nonmedical sources regarding the severity and duration of the disorder.
- Evidence from your physician regarding the “grade” of your muscle function.
- Imaging and other diagnostic test results.
- Operative reports (following surgical procedures).
- Evidence regarding the effects—good or bad—of the treatment you’ve received.
What If Your Chronic Back Pain Does Not Result from a Listed Impairment?
If your condition is not one that is specifically listed in the Blue Book, it must be a medically determinable condition that is as severe as those that do.
That is, it must be one that negatively impacts your ability to function and which can be expected to last at least a year or result in your death.
The same sort of objective medical evidence required to prove that you have a listed impairment is required to prove that you have an unlisted impairment—and to prove its severity.
It is always an uphill battle to obtain approval of a Social Security Disability benefits claim. The SSA rejects most Disability benefits claims initially. This is why Social Security Disability Attorneys exist, in fact.
When a condition is not listed in the Blue Book, proving its nature and its severity is all the more difficult, even with your medical service providers backing you up with diagnoses and all of the documentation possible.
Chronic back pain is, beyond that, a condition which is often not only difficult to diagnose in terms of specific cause but also a condition the severity of which is highly subject to question by the SSA.
Your back hurts. You can barely stand. You haven’t been able to sit at your desk for a month.
Will it still be the same in a year? Two years?
Unless the condition is impacting your ability to breathe or affecting your hurt, or resulting in some other serious effect, it is unlikely that you will die from chronic back pain.
Physical therapy and other such treatment can be required for months and months to remedy chronic back pain—and it often (eventually) works.
The SSA is aware of this.
Thus, Disability benefits claims are difficult at best, unless they can be definitively traced to one of the conditions specifically outlined in the SSA Blue Book.
It is the reason that an Orland Disability Attorney should always be consulted if you are considering filing a claim for Social Security benefits due to crippling back pain.
What Is Substantial Gainful Activity for Disability Benefits Claim Purposes?
How severe must your chronic back pain be?
As noted above, it must be severe enough that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity.
What does this mean, exactly?
Substantial gainful activity, or SGA, is defined by the SSA as the ability to earn more than a certain amount per month.
As of this writing, the SGA amount for non-blind individuals is $2,260 per month. For blind individuals, it is $1,350 per month.
If your chronic back pain prevents you from earning more than that, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability in Florida.
Florida Social Security Disability and Chronic Back Pain: The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that it is important to consult an experienced Orlando Disability Lawyer to have your specific circumstances, ability to work, and condition evaluated by an experienced legal professional.
At The Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, PA, we will ensure that your Florida Disability claim is reviewed with particular emphasis upon the need to prove your particular condition’s severity to the SSA.
If you are suffering from chronic back pain, do not assume that you do not qualify for Disability benefits because your doctors aren’t sure—yet—what the cause may be.