Can I Work With Degenerative Disc Disease?

How To Qualify for Social Security Benefits with Degenerative Disc Disease

If you have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and it makes working impossible, you may be eligible to receive monthly disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA oversees Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is a program that provides financial assistance to workers who have become disabled because of injuries or illness.

To be eligible for SSDI, your degenerative disc disease must be severe enough to impact your vertebrae and result in chronic pain that keeps you from being in position, such as sitting or standing, for long periods of time.

Degenerative disc disease can be devastating, causing horrible pain, mobility problems, numbness and tingling, and cause malaise, which is an overall feeling of being unwell. All these symptoms can keep you from your normal activities and from living a productive lifestyle.

Impacting Your Ability to Work

Because of the severity of the pain suffered with degenerative disc disease, you may find yourself unable to maintain mobility.

If you try to walk, it may only be short distances and you may only be able to walk with the help of a cane or walker. You won’t be able to bend, lift, carry, squat, or reach, which can impact almost all work positions.

You can’t hold a job that requires you to sit or stand for long periods of time because you'll need to reposition yourself constantly. This can impact your work duties and cut into your work day.

If you cannot work because of degenerative disc disease, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Limitations for Specific Jobs

Because of the pain and symptoms affiliated with degenerative disc disease, you will not be able to be a commercial driver and operate semi-trucks or heavy equipment because of the added bounce and discomfort your back will experience from the rough rides.

Your inability to bend, lift, carry, and reach will keep you from working in a warehouse, stocking shelves, or loading trucks for delivery.

Because of the drowsiness caused by the pain medication, you can’t operate saws or machinery in a factory setting because you could endanger your life as well as the lives of others.

Degenerative disc disorder can also lead to other problems, such as spinal stenosis, root nerve compression, or a herniated disc, the pain will become more intense and your limitations can be even more significant so you will find yourself unable to concentrate to handle jobs such as teaching or training others, completing paperwork, or staying focused.

Because pain impacts your thought process, any kind of sedentary work is no longer an option because you couldn’t continuously provide quality results without multiple errors.

Medical Evidence Needed to Qualify

When you are submitting a claim for disability benefits you will have to submit your medical records and plenty of medical documentation to support your claim.

The Social Security Administration will need to have proof of your medical condition before you can be approved for disability benefits.

It’s important that the medical documentation that you submit shows that you meet the requirements set in the Blue Book because you must meet those requirements in order to be eligible for benefits.

The Blue Book is the book that the Social Security Administration uses when they make decisions about who qualifies for disability benefits.

Every medical condition that makes someone eligible for disability benefits is listed in the Blue Book along with the requirements that someone must meet in order to qualify for benefits because of that condition.

The Blue Book is available online and is searchable, so you can look up for yourself what requirements have to be met in order to be eligible for disability benefits because of degenerative disc disease.

Qualifying with Degenerative Disc Disease using Medical Vocational Allowance

What happens when you can’t work because of degenerative disc disease but you don’t meet the Blue Book listing requirements? Not meeting the requirements listed in the Blue Book doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to get disability benefits.

You can still be approved for benefits under a medical vocational allowance.

Medical Vocational Allowance was designed specifically to help people who don’t meet the Blue Book listing criteria or whose illness isn’t listed in the Blue Book qualify for disability benefits if they are too sick to work.

In order to get the medical vocational allowance exception you will need to file a form asking for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation.

The Residual Functional Capacity evaluation is done by the Social Security Administration. You will need to take a copy of the form to your doctor and have your doctor fill it out.

The form is long, and some doctors will charge you for filling out the form because it can take over an hour to fill out.

The doctor will need to provide your detailed medical history and answer questions about your physical function like whether or not you can sit for six or eight hours at a time or stand for a long period of time.

Once the SSA has received the Residual Functional Capacity evaluation form and your medical documentation they will examine your work history, your age, and skill set to see if there is any other type of work that you can do with the medical limitations that you have.

For example, if your last job involved sitting at a desk all day and you can no longer sit for eight hours a day the SSA would try to determine if you could do the same kind of work you were doing standing instead of sitting.

If they determine that there is no work that you can reasonably be expected to do with the limitations that you have then you will be eligible for disability benefits through the medical vocational allowance exception.

How to Apply for Disability Benefits

Tests will show the severity of your condition and support your claim. The key to a successful claim is supplying documentation that supports your diagnosis, your symptoms, your treatments, side effects, limitations, and restrictions.

You can use several different approaches to start the claims process. If you prefer to start the claims process in person, you can visit your nearest SSA office and sit down one-on-one with a SSA employee. You can call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 to start the claims process over the phone or you can visit the SSA website to start the filing process.

Talk with a Social Security Attorney

You can choose representation by an advocate or an attorney. An attorney can help you gather all help you gather all the necessary paperwork and information you need and will improve your odds of a successful claim.

If your degenerative disc disease is impacting your ability to work, take our Free Disability Evaluation today.

Additional Resources

Qualifying for Disability After 50 with Degenerative Disc Disease
Why Was Degenerative Disc Disease Denied?
Tips on Qualifying for Degenerative Disc Disease