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Keefe Disability Law
Social Security Disability & Supplemental Security Income
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Defining the Severity of Musculoskeletal Disorders to Qualify for Disability

After falling off your roof and landing backward on a tree stump, your spine is heavily bruised and several vertebrae are fractured. Your doctor is hopeful that the ensuing paralysis is only temporary and that the swelling from the accident is putting pressure on your nerves. He has faith that once the swelling goes down, you’ll regain feeling and be able to work on your recovery.

However, although the damage shouldn’t be permanent, your physician informs you that you’ll need to stay on bed rest and have limited movement for at least two months, and recovery could take up to an additional year before you’re able to go back to work. You can’t afford to go a year plus without a paycheck. So what can you do? Your friends suggested that you try to apply for disability, but since the injury isn’t permanent, can you still qualify?

Defining MSD Disability Terms for Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) as an injury, ailment, or disorder that causes a loss of muscle, joint, or bone function. Those disorders include bone or joint deformities, miscellaneous disorders of the spine, neurological deficits that impair muscle function, amputation, bone fractures, and some soft tissue injuries (including debilitating burns that require prolonged periods of immobility or rest).

In order to qualify for MSD disability, you first need to be diagnosed with a recognized form of musculoskeletal disorder. Secondly, your disorder must be determined debilitating enough (causing severe loss of function) to warrant your being unable to work. The SSA begins to determine MSD severity by using a checklist similar to the following:

  • Does the disorder, through physical limitations or pain, forbid you from making sustained movements?
  • Can the patient independently initiate, sustain, or complete simple activities?
  • Does the disorder limit the ability to sustain a reasonable walking pace over a sufficient distance in which to be able to carry out activities of daily living?
  • Is the inflicted capable of traveling without companion assistance to and from a place of employment?
  • Does the disorder interfere with upper body function?
  • Can the patient perform sustained upper body movements such as reaching, pushing, pulling, grasping, and fingering to be able to carry out activities of daily living?
  • Is there documented proof of pain levels associated with the individual’s particular case? Is this pain intense enough to make it impossible for him to work?
  • Has the ailment lasted or is it projected to last at least 12 months?


Although a claim doesn’t have to cover all of these factors, eligibility will be determined based on whether the claim and disorder can adequately prove that you are physically unable to work. If the SSA panel questions your disorder’s severity or believes that your injury isn’t severe enough to keep you from earning a decent living, your claim will be denied.

Avoiding a Rejection Letter

Don’t waste your time, energy and patience hoping that your application will be approved. Instead, make sure you have the highest possible rate of success by having an experienced disability lawyer represent you. Nearly 90 percent of unrepresented claims are denied. Wouldn’t you rather be in the approved 10 percent? Contact us today to see how we can help you prepare and file your claim to include all the necessary information the Social Security Administration needs to approve it. Remember, our job is to see that you have the best chance of getting the benefits you need and deserve, and we take out job very seriously. Call now to take the first step toward approval.

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law

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