Severe back and spinal issues such as broken vertebrae, spinal weakness or deformities, chronic lower back pain, degenerative disk disease, arthritis, and scoliosis can make working and engaging in substantial gainful activity difficult. In some cases, spinal fusion surgery can successfully immobilize the problem area, relieving chronic back pain and improving spinal stability and overall mobility. However, as major surgery, spinal fusions come with a wide range of risks, and positive results are never guaranteed.
If you underwent a spinal fusion procedure and can no longer work, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Here's what you need to know about spinal fusion surgeries, qualifying for SSDI for a spinal fusion-related disability, and how Keefe Disability Law's Boston attorneys can help you navigate the application process to get the benefits you deserve.
SSDI has three main criteria for eligibility: duration of disability, work credits, and medical impairment. Here's what they mean and how they affect your eligibility for SSDI benefits.
- Duration of disability. You must be unable to work (or earning less than the substantial gainful activity limit) for 12 months or longer to meet the Social Security Administration's (SSA) duration requirement.
- Work credits. You contribute to SSDI when you work jobs that pay into Social Security. To qualify for benefits, you generally need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the past decade. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. (If you lack sufficient work credits, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income or SSI, a separate assistance program for low-income individuals with disabilities.)
- Medically determinable impairment. You must have a medical condition that meets the SSA's strict definition of disability and can be proved with evidence and documentation from acceptable medical sources.
Qualifying for SSDI for Spinal Fusion
Recovering from a spinal fusion procedure can take anywhere from six months to a year. For patients who suffered complications such as infection, worsened back pain, spinal cord damage, or rejection of the bone graft, the necessary recovery period can be even longer.
If your doctor agrees that your condition is unlikely to improve enough for you to return to work within a year and you have sufficient work credits to qualify for benefits, the next step is proving your medical impairment. You can do this by meeting the criteria for a listing in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments or by completing a residual functional capacity assessment that shows the effects of your spinal fusion are as disabling as a condition in the Blue Book. Essentially, you'll have to prove that you were unable to walk normally or without pain before surgery and that the condition didn't improve or worsened following the procedure.
Regardless of which route you take, you must provide detailed medical evidence, such as descriptions of your condition, related limitations, and prognosis; notes from treating doctors and nurses; and X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and other tests.
Applying for SSDI? Working With an Experienced Attorney May Increase Your Chances for Approval
Applying for SSDI can be frustrating. Most applications are denied in the initial stage of the SSA's five-step evaluation process – often due to preventable mistakes in the application paperwork or failure to include sufficient evidence from acceptable medical sources. Let Keefe Disability Law's talented Boston legal team help you prepare and submit your application to increase your chances for success. We've helped countless clients secure the SSDI benefits they need when a disability prevents gainful employment. We may be able to do the same for you.
Schedule a Consultation
Ready to apply for SSDI for a spinal fusion-related disability and want knowledgeable and experienced legal advice specific to your situation? Contact Keefe Disability Law online or call us at 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation. For more information, request our free book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.