How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

SSD AND SSI Disability Benefits and Back Pain

Many individuals suffering from chronic back pain find that their condition severely limits their ability to work, but are not sure if they can collect disability benefits based on this condition (back pain) alone, or if they need a more definitive diagnosis, such as osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, etc.

If you file for Social Security Disability (SSD) on the basis of back pain, a disability examiner will first evaluate your medical records to determine if your symptoms meet the criteria for any musculoskeletal conditions listed in the social security list of impairments, or blue book.

However, even if the examiner in your case determines that your impairment does not meet the criteria of any listings in the blue book, you might still be eligible for disability benefits.

This is because the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not evaluate claims based on a specific medical diagnosis, but instead awards benefits to those with impairments that prevent them from participating in substantial gainful activity (SGA). This amount changes periodically; to check the current amount, go to this page: SGA earnings cap.

So if you can provide solid medical documentation to support your claim that your back pain prevents you from earning at least that amount, you may very well qualify for disability benefits.

If your back pain is not the result of a musculoskeletal condition listed in the SSA blue book, there are two other ways in which you can still qualify for SSD or supplemental security income (SSI) benefits: 1) A disability examiner or judge can decide that your symptoms are equal in severity to those of a musculoskeletal condition that is listed in the social security book of impairments (referred to as equaling a listing), or 2) A disability examiner or judge can decide that your symptoms limit your residual functional capacity (your ability to perform work-related tasks) to the point that you are no longer able to earn a living wage (see SGA amount above).

The good news is that most applicants who are awarded Social Security Disability or SSI for back pain do not meet a listing in the blue book. The not-so-good news is that those who fail to meet a listing must qualify for a medical vocational allowance in order to win benefits, and a medical vocational allowance is awarded only to those who can demonstrate that their condition prevents them from performing not only their current job, but any past jobs, and any other work to which they may be suited (based on age, education, physical or mental limitations, etc.). Needless to say, many disability applications are denied based on a disability examiner’s decision that you are still able to perform other work.

For this reason it is extremely important for those filing for disability based on back pain to provide a complete work history to social security, detailing not only titles held at past jobs, but the specific duties performed in each position—you do not want the disability examiner assuming you are qualified to perform tasks (other work) for which you have no prior experience or ability.

Additional information:

Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
How many Social Security Disability cases are approved for back pain?
Get your pain symptoms on record so that Social Security can take this into consideration
Never minimize your pain or other symptoms because this can be used against you
Can I Receive Disability Benefits with Back problems?
Are Social Security Disability Claims Based On Back Pain Usually Turned Down?
Will I Get SSI or SSD Disability With a Ruptured Disc?
SSD and SSI Disability Benefits and Back Pain
Low Back Pain and Filing for Disability
Facts about Herniated Disc and Filing for Disability
How to get Approved for Disability based on a Back Condition
Bulging disc and Filing for Disability

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.