Back Pain and Social Security Disability 

Jun 19

There are many causes of chronic back pain that may impact an individual’s ability to work.  Some causes of chronic back pain are:  degenerative disc disease (damage to one or more vertebral discs), herniated disc (problem with one of the cushions (discs) between the individual vertebras that stack up to make the spinal column), stenosis (narrowing of a root canal), nerve root impingement (one or more of the nerve roots contacting another part of the vertebrae) and failed back surgery.

SSA recognizes that an individual may be entitled to social security disability benefits based on a severe back impairment.  SSA has special rules that SSA uses to evaluate a back impairment.  For example, if SSA determines that an individual’s back impairment meets or equals one of the Listing criteria found in Section 1.00 of SSA’s special rules, SSA should award benefits.  There may be some situations in which an individual’s back impairment does not meet or equal the Listing criteria but a finding of disabled is warranted under SSA’s special Medical-Vocational Guidelines pursuant Step 4 and Step 5 of  SSA’s 5-Step Sequential Evaluation process.

To improve an individual’s chances of winning disability benefits because of a severe back impairment, the back impairment should be well documented with recent objective medical findings and treatment records should show that there has been no improvement despite appropriate treatment with specialist(s).  An individual seeking disability benefits because of a back impairment should speak with a representative or attorney who has represented individuals before SSA who cannot work because of a severe back impairment.