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How Do You Apply For Disability Benefits With Scoliosis?

Last updated: April 12, 2023

Abnormal curvatures of the spine characterize the scoliosis of the spine. Those with congenital conditions have it at birth. In contrast, those with acquired conditions have it during adolescence, those with bone weakness are affected by osteoporosis, back surgery, or traumatic injuries, or those with neurological disorders (such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida).

Scoliosis causes a curve in the spine in an S- or C-shaped pattern, and it varies in severity. In cases of severe curves, surgery is needed to correct the curvature. There is no cure, but bracing may prevent it from getting worse.

Scoliosis is not specifically listed in the Social Security Administration's Blue Book. The Blue Book lists more than 100 medical conditions for people to qualify for social security disability benefits. Perhaps you may wonder, “Does scoliosis qualify as a disability?”

Generally, scoliosis does not interfere with your ability to work because it is not debilitating enough. Consequently, to qualify for SSD benefits due to scoliosis, either the condition must be severe enough to qualify under another disability listed in the Blue Book, or you must qualify under a medical-vocational allowance, which means your symptoms must meet or exceed an actual listing and prevent you from returning to work.

Scoliosis And Disability Benefits

According to the SSA Blue Book, to qualify for SSD benefits for scoliosis, the severity of your curve and the associated symptoms must meet the criteria defined as a Spinal Disorder. Your scoliosis must lead to one of the following medical conditions to qualify under this listing:

  • Compression of the nerve roots characterized by pain, muscle weakness, and limitations to movement in your legs;
  • Inflammation of the spinal membranes, which causes pain and requires the individual to change positions about every two hours;
  • An abnormally narrow spine causes chronic pain, weakness, and limited mobility.

Along with proving that you have scoliosis, it is also essential to prove that your scoliosis:

  • Lasts or will last 12 months or more;
  • It affects your ability to earn more than $1,260 per month in 2020 and hinders your participation in substantial gainful activity, and;
  • Your work credits are sufficient to qualify for SSD benefits.

Scoliosis And Other Disabilities

Any application that fails to meet these conditions will be denied regardless of whether you meet the SSA's criteria for disability.

The body systems can sometimes be affected by scoliosis. Depending on the severity and location of the curve, the heart and lungs may be compressed, resulting in cardiovascular problems or trouble breathing. Those with severe scoliosis may also find it difficult to walk without crutches or other aids or even experience withdrawal or other mental health problems due to disfigurement (if left untreated, severe forms of the condition may cause a hunchback, uneven shoulders, hips, or leg lengths).

According to the specific criteria listed, you may be able to qualify for SSD benefits if your scoliosis causes problems with these other body systems. SSA criteria for spinal disorders or any conditions commonly associated with scoliosis may not apply to you. Still, when your symptoms are viewed collectively, they may be debilitating enough to qualify you. Choosing whether to apply under multiple disabilities can be determined with the help of an experienced SSD lawyer. 

Medical Evidence Of Scoliosis

You must provide medical evidence to the SSA when filing a scoliosis disability claim. When the curvature becomes severe or worsens, doctors refer patients to specialists. Scoliosis is frequently detected during routine office visits. Scoliosis may be diagnosed based on the following medical evidence:

  • Physical exam and diagnosis
  • X-Ray
  • MRI

You should also include any treatment you have received to maintain or correct your curve in the medical evidence. Such evidence can include:

  • Bracing
  • Physical therapy or massage
  • Chiropractic care
  • Use of walking aids
  • Medication prescribed for pain relief

Scoliosis And Residual Functional Capacity

Disability benefits may still be available if your symptoms make it impossible for you to work. Scoliosis can severely limit your ability to perform certain tasks. The Social Security Administration can determine this using the residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. In most cases, SSA will approve your SSD if your RFC shows a 20% or more reduction in productivity due to scoliosis.

The RFC evaluates the physical and non-physical limitations of scoliosis. Your scoliosis may cause you to experience back pain, making lifting objects and bending over difficult for you. You would have a hard time with your job if it required you to lift frequently, such as warehouse work or stocking shelves in grocery stores. When completing the RFC, use numbers to explain how your condition affects your ability to perform work-related tasks.

You should not state that you have difficulty bending, "It is difficult for me to bend over." This leaves the examiner with too much room for interpretation - you are unable to bend over, but you have difficulty doing so.

Be specific about your limitations. You cannot bend from your waist past 45 degrees without causing pain in your lower back. It is impossible to lift items heavier than 10 pounds, and you can only do so if you are carrying them or placing them at the waist. You cannot bend or lift, so you would be unable to perform these skills.

In determining if you can perform any other job after scoliosis prevents you from returning to your former job, the SSA will consider your age, education, and work experience. 

Applying for Social Security benefits can be an overwhelming process. If you are interested in seeking SSDI benefits, check out our article on whether Social Security disability is taxable. To learn more, visit DisabilityHelp.org today!

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Cheri Hermanson
Cheri leads our team of writers in producing the best quality content there is regarding society and disability, most especially those that helps ease the quality of life for our differently-abled loved ones.
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