Discover How People With Osteomalacia May Be Eligible to Receive Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits 

Living with osteomalacia presents many challenges. The medical disorder can make everyday tasks difficult and maintaining gainful employment almost impossible. Those affected by this bone density condition can experience muscle weakness, chronic pain, and frequent bone fractures. 

Payments from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can ensure financial stability and safeguard access to medical care. Applying for SSDI benefits can be arduous, but our empathetic disability lawyers can provide invaluable guidance and support. Gain insight into how osteomalacia impacts your life and prepare a strong case for your SSDI application with our help. 

Osteomalacia Explained Simply

Researchers from Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in Florida describe osteomalacia as a metabolic bone disorder. The defining characteristic of osteomalacia is a weakening or softening of the bones due to inadequate mineralization of bone tissue. This is why the condition is sometimes called “soft bone disease.” 

People with osteomalacia have bones that are soft and weak. The softer bones bend more easily and are more prone to breaking. Osteomalacia can make it difficult for sufferers to participate in daily activities due to muscle pain and a higher risk of serious injury. Rickets is a similar type of bone disease affecting infants and young children. 

Common Causes of Osteomalacia

The main cause of osteomalacia is a vitamin D deficiency. Patients may have lower levels of vitamin D in the body due to a lack of production, a lack of absorption, or both. Vitamin D is crucial in the creation of new bone tissue. 

The human body primarily produces vitamin D from direct skin exposure to sunlight. When people are exposed to less sunlight in the winter months, for instance, they may experience a vitamin D deficiency. The ability to store vitamin D also diminishes with age. Along with other age-related factors, this means that older adults may be at greater risk of developing osteomalacia. 

Calcium or phosphate deficiencies may also contribute to osteomalacia, but the lack of vitamin D is the primary cause. While it is mainly a metabolic disorder, osteomalacia shares some characteristics with musculoskeletal disorders that qualify for SSDI. Poor bone health can affect a wide range of occupations in different ways.

Osteomalacia Risk Factors

Risk factors associated with the development of osteomalacia are often related to factors that may lead to a vitamin D deficiency. 

  • People with darker skin do not process vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women need higher levels of vitamin D than other people. 
  • Kidney and liver diseases can affect the ability to metabolize vitamin D.
  • Some medications, including antiepileptics and steroids, can increase osteomalacia risk.
  • A diet lacking in vitamin D and calcium-rich foods may contribute to osteomalacia. 
  • Older adults are at greater risk of developing osteomalacia.
  • Obesity can affect the body’s ability to absorb and process vitamin D.
  • Malabsorptive syndromes like cystic fibrosis and celiac disease are risk factors. 

Typical Osteomalacia Symptoms

While the underlying causes are different, osteomalacia symptoms can appear similar to osteoporosis in older adults. The softened and weakened bones characterizing osteomalacia break much more easily than someone may normally expect. People with osteomalacia often suffer partial fractures called Looser zones. 

These insufficiency fractures commonly appear at weight-bearing sites like the hips and lower back. The incredibly painful fractures can make walking difficult or even unbearable. The partial cracks can quickly lead to complete fractures. As the early stages of osteomalacia may be asymptomatic, the condition may go undiagnosed for two or three years. 

Along with the increased risk for partial and complete bone fractures, other common symptoms of osteomalacia include:

  • Muscle pain, weakness, and wasting
  • Joint stiffness and pain, especially in the groin, legs, and knees
  • Muscle spasms
  • Aching bone pain in the lower spine, pelvis, and lower extremities
  • Difficulty walking or a waddle gait
  • Pins and needles sensation in the hands and feet
  • Increased risk of falls 
  • Seizures caused by hypocalcemia

How Osteomalacia May Affect Substantial Gainful Activity

The inability to sustain substantial gainful activity (SGA) is a primary criterion for conditions qualifying for Social Security disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines SGA as earned income exceeding $1,550 per month in 2024 for non-blind individuals. The monthly amount is $2,590 for blind individuals. 

If you have osteomalacia, you may wonder whether your condition is severe enough to qualify for SSDI. This can depend heavily on the severity of your symptoms. A person with severe osteomalacia may suffer excruciating pain with even the smallest and simplest of movements. The constant risk of broken bones may make it impossible to lift any substantial weight. 

Chronic muscle and joint pain, plus an elevated risk for bone fractures, may make it difficult to participate in certain types of physical labor. But, these symptoms may not be enough to stop someone from working a more sedentary job in front of a computer. Indeed, sitting down can ease the pain of osteomalacia. 

Qualifying for SSDI by Meeting or Equaling an SSA Blue Book Listing

The Social Security Administration outlines medical conditions that qualify for disability in its Blue Book. For each condition, the book details specific criteria applicants must meet to be eligible for benefits. Osteomalacia is currently not listed in the SSA Blue Book. People with osteomalacia may qualify for disability benefits by meeting or equaling an existing listing. 

Depending on symptoms, osteomalacia patients may meet the listing for inflammatory arthritis. SSA Blue Book Section 14.09 states that applicants must demonstrate persistent inflammation or deformity of one or more major peripheral joints in a lower extremity. Another requirement is having a documented medical need for a walker, bilateral canes, bilateral crutches, or a wheeled and seated mobility device. 

Medical Conditions Associated With Osteomalacia

In some cases, the symptoms associated with osteomalacia may not be enough to qualify for SSDI on their own. The skilled attorneys at Keefe Disability Law can help you explore secondary conditions to strengthen your SSDI claim. Often, osteomalacia may be comorbid with other health conditions. 

Examples of medical conditions related to osteomalacia include the following. The SSA includes some of these in its listing of qualifying disabilities:

  • Kidney failure and kidney disease
  • Celiac disease and other digestive disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Inflammatory arthritis 
  • Crohn's disease
  • Cholestasis
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism

Seeking Disability Benefits for Chronic Kidney Disease

SSDI applicants with osteomalacia may believe their disability more closely resembles other conditions affecting bone health and mobility. In reality, a significant number of applicants qualify for disability benefits based on chronic kidney disease. Blue Book Section 6.05 is the only section that mentions osteomalacia by name.

The first requirement is reduced glomerular filtration with lab results taken at least 90 days but no more than 12 months apart. The second requirement calls for renal osteodystrophy with severe bone pain and bone abnormalities, including osteomalacia, osteitis fibrosa, or pathologic fractures.

What You Need to Prove for Social Security Disability Approval

A significant challenge that people with osteomalacia may face when applying for SSDI benefits is proving the duration of their disability. To qualify for disability benefits, applicants must prove their disability has or is expected to last for at least 12 months or be expected to end in death. Many patients with osteomalacia experience significant improvement after receiving treatment for their vitamin D deficiency. 

Another obstacle is proving the severity and extent of their disability. They can support their case by completing a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment. Their doctor evaluates their physical or mental impairments, determining how they affect their ability to perform substantial gainful employment. Medical evidence like X-rays, blood test results, and orthopedic reports can further strengthen your SSDI claim. 

You may also include the Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire (ADLQ) in your SSDI application. The questionnaire looks into how your osteomalacia and other impairments affect your day-to-day life. An inability to care for yourself and your household supports the claim that you cannot maintain substantial gainful activity due to your disability. 

Lean on Our Boston Disability Lawyers for SSDI Help

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance can be complex, daunting, and confusing. An experienced SSDI lawyer can significantly help with this process. The skilled legal team at Keefe Disability Law has worked with dozens of clients to complete compelling SSDI applications, guiding them through what is needed to improve their chances of approval. 

We will work with you to collect vital evidence and required documentation to support your claim. This can include retrieving employment records, connecting you with medical experts, and ensuring all forms are completed accurately. Our team can explain the SSDI approval process, like how the SSA may be more lenient with older adults applying for benefits. We know what the SSA is looking for in a successful application. 

Patrick Hartwig
Connect with me
Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law