Overview of Disability
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How long do cases take?
How to win Disability
SSD Mistakes to avoid
Disability for Mental
What if you get denied?
How to file Appeals
Disability through SSA
SSI Disability Benefits
Disability for Children
How do I qualify for it?
Working and Disability
Disability Award Notice
Disability Lawyer Q&A
Disability Conditions List
What is a disability?
Your Medical Evidence
Filing for your Disability
SSD SSI Definitions
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SSDRC Disability Blog
Facts about Herniated Slipped Disc 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. A slipped disk is more commonly called a herniated disk in medical terms. This condition refers to a tear in the outer layer of cartilage that cushions the spinal bones (vertebrae). The inner layer of cartilage then pokes through and into the spinal cord.
2. A herniated disk may not cause any problems, but it is more likely that a herniated disk will cause some discomfort. These include radiating pain from the butt down the leg, numbness or weakness in the muscles of the lower back and leg or the upper body and arm, pain in the lower back or leg that is worse when sitting, coughing or sneezing.
3. A herniated disk may cause the affected individual's back to “go out” , causing disability for one to three weeks and limitations up to six weeks.
4. In some cases the herniated disk may compress several spinal nerve roots at one time. This will typically cause an increase of pain over time, numbness and weakness in the legs, and potentially the loss of control over bladder and bowel function. This is a medical emergency and may require immediate surgery.
5. Typically herniated disks occur with age, as part of normal deterioration of the spine. Lifting heavy objects, twisting and turning can all contribute to herniation of a disk, especially with age but even in younger people if the strain is great enough.
6. Due to the typical causes of herniated disks, risk factors primarily include middle age, weight, height and jobs or activities that put strain on the spine.
7. Smoking also increases the risk of herniated disks due to the way it limits proper blood oxygen levels.
8. A herniated disk that is causing symptoms is usually treated with rest, ice and heat, and strength exercises. In rare cases surgery may be necessary. Acupuncture, massage, yoga and chiropractic care are common alternative medicine therapies that have helped some people find relief from symptoms.
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.
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 and in these subsections:
Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI
These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it