Overview of Disability
Disability Back Pay
Disability Advice Tips
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
SSDRC authored by
SSDRC Disability Blog
Facts about Spinal Fusion 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. 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.
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
Related Body System Impairments:
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Are Social Security Disability Claims Based On Back Pain Usually Turned Down?
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
Will I qualify for disability due to back pain, a bone spur, and bulging discs?
Degenerative Disc Disease, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Degenerative joint disease and Filing for Disability
Herniated Slipped Disc and Filing for Disability
Facts about Lumbar Fusion and Filing for Disability
Facts about Spinal Fusion and Filing for Disability
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