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Social Security Disability Definitions

Social Security Disability and SSI Overview

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Disability Denials and Filing Appeals

Social Security Mental Disability Benefits

Disability Benefits offered through Social Security

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Disability Benefits for Children

Disability Qualifications and How to Qualify

Social Security Disability and Working

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Social Security Back Pay and the disability award notice

Disability Lawyers and Hiring an Attorney

Social Security Disability SSI List of Conditions

What is considered a Disabling condition by Social Security?

Social Security Disability SSI and Medical Evidence

Filing for Disability Benefits

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Facts about Bulging disc and Filing for Disability

How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits

1) The term bulging disc is usually used interchangeably with the terms herniated disc, slipped disc, ruptured disc, degenerative disc disease, black disc, sciatica, pinched nerve and disc protrusion, though it is not exactly the same thing and should not be used interchangeably. These disc disorders are quite different, though they are all spinal disc issues that cause back pain.

2) The spine is made of a tough outer exterior, with a soft inner gel like fluid. A bulging disc happens when the soft, inner layer continues out past the space it should normally inhabit. Unlike a herniated, slipped, or ruptured disk that protrudes out from a tear or crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage, the bulging disk is simply too large for the tough outer cartilage layer. A bulging disc ‘bulges’ out past where it should normally be without any tearing or leaking.

3) Bulging discs are way more common that herniated discs, and herniated discs are more likely to cause pain. Sometimes bulging discs can cause no pain at all.

4) A bulging disc does not leak fluid. Although the soft, gel-like interior, also called the nucleus pulposus, does bulge out through the tough, outer exterior, also called the annulus fibrosus, it does not tear, break open, or leak out.

5) A bulging disk may appear like a small, fully formed bubble popping out from the disc, whereas a herniated disk involves cracking of the outer layer, and a ruptured disk involves fluid leaking from the ‘bubble’. A bulging disc is a contained disk disorder.

6) A bulging disc is usually a small disk protrusion, compared to other disc disorders.

7) The most common bulging disc symptom is back pain.

Can you qualify for disability benefits with this condition?

Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records. This includes whatever statements may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis).

It will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).

Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?

Speaking as a former Disability Claims Examiner, I can state that there are several reasons:

1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant and his or her disability attorney will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge;

2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. At the hearing level, of course, this is exactly what happens. And a number of disability representatives will also take such steps even earlier, at the reconsideration appeal level;

3) Disability judges, unlike disability examiners who decides cases at the first two levels of the system, can make independent decisions without being overturned by immediate supervisors--which happens frequently.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions

Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews