Spinal cord injuries – caused by a variety of accidents – can be debilitating. If you are unable to work and earn a living because of a spinal cord injury, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The most severe spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma, such as car crashes, motorcycle accidents, or falls. Sometimes a spinal cord injury is the result of a tumor, genetic condition, inflammatory disease, congenital disorders, or infections.
The spinal cord carries the nerve fibers that allows the brain to interact with the rest of the body. The top of the spinal cord starts at the lower part of the brain, then goes off into right and left nerve pairs at regular intervals as it makes its way down the lower back.
There are three major functions of the spinal cord – carrying motor impulses to the muscles to permit movement, carrying sensory impulses from tissues to the brain, and autonomic or unconscious activity involving multiple kinds of tissue.
How A Spinal Cord Injury Affects Your Physical Ability To Work
A spinal cord injury can keep you from working because of its physical toll on your body. Spinal cord injuries can lead to paralysis, which means you may be unable to move your legs or both your arms and legs. You may not be able to stand, walk, lift, reach, carry, grasp, or hold things.
You may suffer tremors, you may have loss of bowel or bladder functions, or require machines to help you breathe and eat. With these kinds of limitations, you are not able to work. You cannot perform any tasks, such as factory work, working in a retail establishment, drive a delivery vehicle, or handle most tasks.
You may be in a wheelchair, and you may require around the clock help to handle daily activities, such as grooming.
How A Spinal Cord Injury Affects Your Mental Ability To Work
Spinal cord injuries have a significant impact on your brain, so you may not be able to remember things, stay focused, concentrate, or complete regular tasks. You may not be able to function socially and your ability to communicate effectively can be impacted.
If you are just affected physically by your injury, you may find yourself suffering from depression and anxiety, which can be overwhelming and affect your ability to work with others.
A Spinal Cord Injury and Applying for Disability
The medical guide used by the SSA, called the Blue Book, has a listing for spinal cord disability. Listing 11.08 has three different ways in which a claimant may be approved for disability benefits:
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- Complete loss of function of any part of the body because of the injury, such as paralysis of a leg or an arm.
- Abnormal ability of movement in at least two extremities that causes extreme difficulty in the ability to balance while walking or standing, to stand after being in a seated position, or using their arms and hands.
- A significant spinal cord problem not severe enough to be extreme, combined with a serious limitation in the ability to understand, use, or remember information; social interactions; or concentration, persistence, or ability to work quickly; or the ability to take care of oneself.