Spinal Cord Injury and Social Security Disability

A spinal cord injury may cause limited mobility or may result in paralysis. It can effect not just movement but produce a range of other symptoms and complications, including pain, weakness, dizziness, and speech impairments, among other issues.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) understands a spinal cord injury can be debilitating and that it may prevent you from working not just during your recovery, but perhaps permanently. As such, an injury to your spinal cord can potentially qualify you to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

Medically Qualifying with a Spinal Cord Injury

While spinal cord injury can qualify you for benefits, the SSA has no single listing in its Blue Book manual, which is utilized in reviewing claims for eligibility. That being said, there are two listings under which spinal cord injuries commonly qualify:

  • Section 1.04 – Disorders of the Spine
  • Section 11.08 – Spinal cord or nerve root lesion, due to any cause

To be found eligible under either of these listings, you must provide the SSA thorough medical records supporting your claim. Your records don’t have to exactly meet the specifications of either listing, but they must closely match one or the other.

To qualify under Section 1.04, you must suffer any or all of the following:

  • paralysis or decreased ability to move
  • severe pain
  • loss of muscle control, coordination, or sensation

To qualify for benefits under Section 11.08, your medical records must document any or all of the following symptoms and complications:

  • a loss of coordination
  • impaired communication abilities
  • paralysis or partial paralysis of muscle groups
  • other stroke-like symptoms

Even if you cannot meet or match one of these listings however, you can still receive benefits, if you are able to demonstrate through your application details and your medical records and other supporting documentation that you:

  • Suffer severe limitations in your activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • AND

  • Your limitations prevent you from performing typical job duties in any job for which you would otherwise be qualified.

The SSA will review this information through a residual functional capacity (RFC) analysis. If that analysis shows you suffer from severe impairment that prevents gainful employment, you will be found eligible for benefits even without meeting or matching a Blue Book listing.

Getting Help with Your Spinal Cord Injury Claim

SSD claims can be filed online via the SSA’s website or in-person, at your local SSA office, by appointment. Whether you apply locally or online, you must ensure you provide the SSA copies of your medical records and other supporting documentation. Those records can be submitted to your local office.

To schedule an appointment locally, call 1-800-772-1213, and consider seeking assistance with your claim from a Social Security advocate or disability attorney before filing. They can help you collect the appropriate supporting evidence and can assist in filing appeals, if you are initially denied benefits.

Additional Resources