Can I get Social Security Disability for my radiculopathy?
Yes, you can. There are two ways to get Social Security Disability for your radiculopathy. The first way is to show that you meet Social Security’s specific listing on radiculopathy and the second way is to show that due to your physical restrictions there are no jobs available in the US economy which you would be able to do on a full time basis. I will discuss both methods of getting disability benefits for your radiculopathy below. However, it’s worth noting that you’re more likely to win your case by showing there are no jobs available than by meeting a listing because the requirements of listings are often so exact that most people do not meet them.
Method 1 – Listing: The listing for radiculopathy is under spine disorders and is listed at listing 1.04. This listing is extremely specific and requires a compromise of the nerve root with “neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test.” Alternatively, if your radiculopathy is caused by arachnoiditis there is a specific listing for that or you can show that you have “spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, and resulting in inability to ambulate effectively.” Your radiculopathy might cause severe pain, but if you do not have documentation by your doctor of all of the specific requirements in the listing, social security will not find you disabled based on the listing. People rarely win their cases based on the listing because it is difficult to document all of the findings listed above. You might have a positive straight-leg raise but no atrophy of the muscle. Other times, you might have all of the symptoms listed above, but no evidence of nerve root compromise on your MRI. You might even need a cane to walk, but social security defines inability to ambulate as needing an assistive device that requires use of both hands – like a walker or wheelchair. It is not enough to have a few of the findings in the listing. You must have all of them in your medical treatment records or social security will not find you disabled based on the listing alone. All is not lost, however. You can still prove you are disabled due to your radiculopathy by showing that your combination of symptoms would make you unemployable.
Method 2 – No Jobs You Can Do: You can get disability for your radiculopathy if you show that the symptoms from your radiculopathy along with any other health conditions you have would make you unemployable. Social Security will consider more than just your radiculopathy. They will also consider all of your other health conditions in determining whether or not you can work. Social Security will look at things like how much you can lift or how long you can stand, walk, and sit in a day to determine if jobs are available that you could do. Social Security will also look at whether you have to lie down during the day, take extra breaks or miss several days a month due to your medical conditions. Social Security will even look at your ability to concentrate and follow instructions due to you medical conditions. If your combination of limitations would make you unemployable, then you can get Social Security Disability due to your radiculopathy. Remember, SSA will find you disabled if your combined symptoms would keep from being able to do any job 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, week in and week out.
What do you need to prove there are no jobs you could do?
In order to prove there are no jobs you could do, you need medical documentation from your doctors of all of your medical conditions. This means you need to make an effort to get regular treatment to document your condition over time. Further, it is helpful to get statements from your doctors on how your medical condition limits your ability to work. This can include a letter from the doctor or simply having your doctor fill out a questionnaire on your condition. Doctors often do not comment on your ability to work in their office notes because they’re focused on treating you rather than commenting on your ability work. It helps to ask your doctor’s opinion on your ability to work. Our firm often gives our clients questionnaires to take to treating physicians to document your symptoms and how they would limit your ability to work. We have developed questionnaires over time that ask the questions we have found are helpful in proving your case.
It can be overwhelming to try to prove that you are disabled. You have to collect medical records and submit them to social security and you have to get opinions from doctors that prove your inability to work. We can help you get all this information and improve your chances of getting social security disability benefits. If you would like help proving you are entitled to social security disability due to your radiculopathy, feel free to call us for help.