Musculoskeletal Disorders and SSDIAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 130 million people see medical professionals for musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) every year. Many of these MSDs are minor sprains and injuries. Since they are mild and short-term, these MSDs typically do not qualify for disability. A musculoskeletal disorder must be severe enough to stop someone from working to qualify for benefits. It must also expect to last for at least 12 months.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 20 percent of MSDs are severe enough to qualify for at least partial benefits. A skilled Social Security disability attorney can help determine your eligibility. They can help to assemble the strongest SSDI application possible. This can greatly improve your chances of approval. 

Types of Musculoskeletal Disorders Eligible for Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers MSDs as potentially qualifying applicants for disability benefits. But, it still makes decisions based on function loss and ailment type on a case-by-case basis. The SSA looks at the severity of musculoskeletal disorders. It does not approve all applications. Simple sprains aren’t severe enough to warrant disability. 

The SSA maintains the Blue Book Listing of Impairments. The guide describes conditions that may qualify for Social Security disability. Section 1 of the Blue Book deals with types of musculoskeletal disorders. A simple diagnosis often isn’t enough. Applicants must prove they are unable to work as a result of their condition. The impact the condition has on your life is more important than the specific diagnosis. The Blue Book’s list of MSDs includes the following:

1.15 - Disorders of the Skeletal Spine Resulting in Compromise of a Nerve Root(s) 

Spinal disorders can affect your ability to move. They can also make it difficult to stand, sit, or concentrate. Taken together, these disorders may prevent you from performing many work tasks. Affected nerve roots can result in symptoms like pain, paresthesia, or muscle fatigue. You may also have muscle weakness or sensory changes. 

1.16 - Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Resulting in Compromise of the Cauda Equina 

This MSD refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back. This puts pressure on the spinal cord. The cauda equina is the continuation of nerves through the lumbar and sacral regions near the tailbone. Compromised nerve roots in this region can cause cauda equina syndrome (CES). Symptoms may include urinary retention, incontinence, weakness in the lower extremities, and sciatica. 

1.17 - Reconstructive Surgery or Surgical Arthrodesis of a Major Weight-Bearing Joint 

Reconstructive surgery can lead to pain and loss of mobility. The SSA includes surgery on any major weight-bearing joint in section 1.17 of the Blue Book. Examples include work on the knees, hips, ankles, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. If you are unable to walk, push, lift, or perform fine motor skills, you may qualify for disability. 

1.18 - Abnormality of a Major Joint(s) in Any Extremity 

Even without surgery, major joint problems can be a disability. Your joints are essential to performing a variety of job duties. No one should be forced to work through the pain. The SSA accepts certain joint problems for disability. Some of these include osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, hip fractures or degenerative hip disease, bursitis, and shoulder problems.

1.19 - Pathologic Fractures Due to Any Cause 

To qualify for disability under this section, you must have fractures on three separate occasions within a 12-month period. These bone fractures must limit your physical function. For example, you may need a walker or wheelchair to get around. The SSA also requires the inability to use one or both upper extremities to complete work activities. 

1.20 - Amputation Due to Any Cause 

Generally, two limbs need to be amputated to qualify for disability. This involves amputation at or above the wrist or ankle. An exception is the amputation of a leg at or above the ankle. In many cases, the SSA may need you to show that prosthetic devices could not be used to help you work again. 

1.21 - Soft Tissue Injury or Abnormality Under Continuing Surgical Management 

A soft tissue injury may not be enough to qualify for disability. It must receive surgical management “directed toward saving, reconstructing, or replacing the affected part of the body.” Examples that may fall under this section include sciatica, third-degree burns that affect nerves, and torn ligaments. 

1.22 - Non-Healing or Complex Fracture of the Femur, Tibia, Pelvis, or One or More of the Talocrural Bones 

Fractures can qualify you for benefits in some cases. But, you must show that the fracture is expected to make it impossible for you to work for a year or more. Medical imaging, like X-rays, must show a “solid union” is “not evident” and is “not clinically solid.” 

1.23 - Non-Healing or Complex Fracture of an Upper Extremity

Similar to fractures involving the leg bones, complex fractures of the upper extremities may qualify for benefits too. The criteria are similar. The fracture is “under continuing surgical management.” Fractures of the humerus, radius, or ulna prevent you from working for at least 12 months. 

Take the Confusion Out of Filing

A medical professional has diagnosed you with a debilitating injury. Due to pain and limited mobility, you are no longer physically capable of working. The bills are piling up, and stress levels are rising. Filing for disability quickly becomes your best option for a stable future. Unfortunately, filing a claim can be confusing. It can be scary if the SSA denies your claim. This is the last thing you need when dealing with an ailment.

Let the qualified Social Security disability lawyers at Keefe Disability Law help take the worry out of your claim. Our dedicated staff will help you understand your rights and options. With experience, knowledge, and fortitude, we can help encourage your claim through the SSA faster than if you filed alone. We can help fill out disability reports too. 

Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law