Facts about Curved Spinal Conditions and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1. Curvature of the spine is due to a variety of conditions. One is called scoliosis, which causes the spine to curve to one side. Kyphosis causes a curving of the upper back, causing significant rounding.
2. The literal meaning of the word scoliosis, which is derivative from Greek, is the word crooked.
3. The spine may be curved in shape so it looks like an S or C. It may also be rotated.
4. Scoliosis is congenital, idiopathic, or neuromuscular. Congenital scoliosis occurs at birth, idiopathic describes an unknown cause but is classified by the age when the scoliosis started to occur, and neuromuscular involves another condition causing the spinal curvature as a side effect. Around 85 percent of scoliosis cases have no clear cause.
5. Those with scoliosis are likely to have family members who also have the condition, but it is unknown what genetic factors cause this familial link.
6. Scoliosis causes the sides of the body to look uneven, particularly in the shoulders, waist and hip. Severe scoliosis can make the rib cage twist and cause damage to the heart and lungs, making breathing difficult.
7. Scoliosis is more painful for adults than it is in children, but it is not likely to progress. The greater the curve, the more likely the scoliosis is to get worse.
8. The well-known fictional character Quasimodo, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, likely had kyphosis since the condition causes a 'hunched' upper back.
9. Kyphosis can occur at birth, during childhood or in adulthood. Childhood kyphosis is typically a spinal deformity, while adult-onset kyphosis is typically caused by other conditions such as osteoporosis or arthritis in the spine.
10. Kyphosis typically does not cause complications, but if it is severe it can cause debilitating back pain, difficulty breathing, and nerve damage. The condition may progress, causing a more prominent back hump.
Qualifying 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 and treatment notes that 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 also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits 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. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
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?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
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. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
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.
Most popular topics on SSDRC.com
Social Security Disability in North Carolina
Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability
Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI
Advice to Win SSD and SSI Benefit Claims
Social Security Disability SSI Questions
What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?
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?
Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips
More Social Security Disability SSI Questions
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
Related Body System Impairments:
Arachnoiditis and Filing for Disability
Transverse Myelitis and Filing for Disability
Spinal Stenosis and Filing for Disability
Curved Spinal Conditions and Filing for Disability
Scoliosis and Filing for Disability
Spina Bifida and Filing for Disability
Syringomelia and Filing for Disability
Chiari Malformation and Filing for Disability
Meningitis and Filing for Disability
Laminectomy and Filing for Disability
Narrowing of the Spine from Spinal Stenosis and Filing for Disability
Social Security Disability For Back Condition pain in California
How much can you make in California and still apply for disability?
Disability requirements and criteria in California