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Social Security Disability Definitions

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How long does Disability take?

Common Mistakes after Receiving a Disability Denial

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

Winning your Disability Benefits

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 Spinal Fusion and Filing for Disability

How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits

1. Spinal fusion is a medical procedure that exactly what it sounds like - fuses two or more vertebrae in the spine together.

2. Spinal fusion relieves pain that occurs because the affected vertebrae move and shift abnormally. The fusion technique stops the vertebrae from moving altogether.

3. Usually the affected vertebrae are in the lower back, or lumbar, and spinal fusion surgery is only considered an option when the patient has not had effected relief from medications and physical therapy. Sometimes this is neurological, causing severe pain with no physical symptoms.

4. Spinal fusion may be used to treat degenerative disc disease, spinal disc herniation, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), spinal tumor, fracture of the vertebrae, and any other degenerative condition or condition that causes instability in the spine.

5. There are two types of spinal fusion in the lumbar region, posterolateral fusion and interbody fusion. They can be implemented together in a procedure called 360-degree fusion.

6. The first type of spinal fusion, called posterolateral fusion, immobilizes vertebrae by inserting a graft in the back of the spine and fusing the vertebrae together with a metal rod at each side.

7. The second type of spinal fusion is called interbody fusion. Interbody fusion removes the intervertebral disc and replaces it with a graft, sometimes adding a device to maintain alignment.

8. Fusion takes anywhere from six months to a year to complete the process. To help keep vertebrae from moving and facilitate fusion, back braces may be used. Patients must be sure to avoid certain activities such as smoking, lots of activity and certain medications, which can slow down the process, or prevent fusion altogether.

9. Fixation is a process that often accompanies fusion treatment. Fixation includes insertion of metallic screws, rods, plates or cages to immobilize the vertebrae and encourage the bone to fuse together.

10. If the vertebrae fail to fuse together after over a year, a second operation may be necessary.

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