How will Social Security evaluate my degenerative disc disease?

All disability claims rely on the review and evaluation of medical records. There are some cases in which the medical records alone will be enough to approve a person for disability benefits. When that happens, it will be because the individual has satisfied the requirements of a listed impairment in the SSA adult or childhood listings, also known as the Blue book.

In most cases, though, a person will not be approved via a listing. Listing requirements are very specific and often require very specific medical evidence to satisfy the Social Security approval critera. In such cases, the disability examiner or disability judge (the ALJ, or administrative law judge) who is making the determination of disability will also, in addition to medical records, need to evaluate the individual's vocational, or work history.

This type of decision, when it leads to an approval, is known as a medical vocational allowance. In such a decision, examiner or judge (depending on the level of the case) will determine the following:

1. That the person has a severe condition, so severe that it makes it impossible for the person to work and earn a substantial and gainful income at their past work or at any other type of work for which their skills, education, age, and functional limitations might suit them, and

2. That the condition will be considered to have lasted, or will eventually last, a minimum of one year.

Here are some helpful and related resource links. The remainder of the page discusses what happens when a person must go to a disability examination.


1. Applying for disability with Degenerative Disc Disease
2. Filing for disability with degenerative disc disease
3. Qualifying for disability benefits degenerative disc disease
4. Social Security Disability claims for back pain, degenerative disc disease
5. How many disability cases are approved for back pain and degenerative disc disease?
6. SSD and SSI Disability Benefits, degenerative disc disease, and Back Pain
7. Degenerative disc disease, back pain, and sedentary work on a disability claim

Social Security must have current medical treatment information to make their disability determinations.If you do not have any medical treatment within the past ninety days, you may have to attend a consultative examination. Consultative medical examinations are minimal examinations and testing performed by physicians and other medical professionals hired by Social Security.

These examinations cannot provide the information your own doctor can provide. Treating doctors are in a better position to give a prognosis, an evaluation of your response to treatment, or a statement as to how your degenerative disc disease limits your ability to work or perform other activities of daily life. For this reason, disability claims with current treatment are more likely to result in an approval than those based solely on the results of a consultative examination.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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