Degenerative disc disease, or DDD, is one of the most common disorders in America. This is because the majority of symptoms are a normal side effect of aging, starting as early as age 30. Unfortunately, those with severe DDD may have difficulty getting benefits because it is harder to prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that your case is a severe one.
Cases that are not approved on their first attempt may instead have their case overseen by a judge in court. Continue below to learn why your DDD may have been denied, and how you can prepare for this official hearing.
Potential Causes for DDD Denial
Degenerative disc disease is addressed in Section 1.04 of the Blue Book for “Disorders of the Spine”. To qualify, applicants must show evidence of a compromised nerve root or spinal cord with either limited spine movement, spinal arachnoiditis, or lumbar spinal stenosis.
Consult with your physician to compare your diagnosis and medical tests to this Blue Book listing. If your medical paperwork does not sufficiently prove the severity of your disorder, then it is likely you may be denied for benefits.
Another reason you may have been denied is because your tests, although they show presence of some DDD, may not be entirely conclusive. When the SSA reviews cases, it needs to see as much hard medical evidence as possible in order to get a sense of a disorder’s severity.
Unfortunately, two people with identical disc issues may experience vastly different qualities of life — one living rather normally and pain-free, while the other experiences severe, debilitating pain.
This makes it difficult for SSA reviewers to determine if a case qualifies or not. In this case, it is vital to do as much testing as possible and prepare a thorough defense with as much medical/testimonial evidence as possible to attest to your pain.
Your Hearing With an ALJ
ALJ hearings can seem daunting, especially when there is pressure to present your case in person. However, with proper preparation, some applicants see better chances at being approved during hearings than they do with their initial disability application.
To start, you will need to schedule a hearing at your local Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Because waiting lists can get lengthy for disability hearings, it is recommended that you schedule your hearing as soon as you can.
In the time leading up to your hearing, do the best you can to prepare evidence to present to your ALJ. Prepare all of the paperwork from your initial application as well as updated versions of all medical tests, medication lists, and hospitalizations.
Update your financial records as well, in case your income may have been an issue resulting in potential case denial. Acquire written testimonies from physicians, therapists, old bosses, coworkers, or loved ones, or prepare to have them testify in court on your behalf.
As a general rule of thumb, you are more likely to receive benefits if you put more work into compiling a strong case.
Considering a Disability Attorney
Disability attorneys are one of the lowest-risk attorneys available. Their work is based on contingency, meaning they are unable to take payment until their services help you to win your case
Even then, their payment is limited to 20% of your initial benefits amount, ensuring you will never have to pay out-of-pocket or lose out on a majority of funds due to their services. Statistics show that these services are especially effective, though — especially during disability hearings.
Before your hearing, consider a free consultation with a disability attorney to see if their assistance may be right for you.