Scoliosis is the most common spinal deformity, affecting approximately 3% of the US population. Although it is typically diagnosed in the pre-adolescent and adolescent years, scoliosis can also occur as an infant or an older adult.
The severity of scoliosis varies from person to person. While the majority of individuals with scoliosis experience only minor effects on their health, some people have such significant cases that their spinal deformity affects their breathing and causes great pain.
Individuals with severe cases of scoliosis may be unable to work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has established the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program to assist those who have become disabled due to conditions such as scoliosis.
Why an Awareness Month for Scoliosis?
An estimated six to nine million Americans have scoliosis. Early diagnosis is crucial for slowing or stopping the progression of the spine curvature. Initial screening for scoliosis is as easy as a physical exam called the Adam’s Forward Bend Test.
Each year, those with scoliosis and their loved ones recognize the condition during the month of June. During this time, people across the globe come together to bring awareness to the spinal deformity.
How Can Someone with Scoliosis Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
One of the easiest ways to qualify for SSDI benefits is to meet the requirements listed in the Blue Book. The Blue Book is a medical guide used by SSA examiners to determine if particular conditions are severe enough to meet the definition of disability.
Scoliosis is not specifically listed in the Blue Book. However, the condition would be considered in the disorders of the spine section, 1.04, of the Blue Book. Further, if your scoliosis impacts your heart or lungs, you might meet a listing related to either of those systems. To meet this listing, you will need to demonstrate one the following:
- Evidence of nerve root compression or narrowing of the spine, such as pain, numbness or weakness, or loss of reflexes this is so severe that your ability to move or walk is compromised
- Inflammation of the membrane that surrounds your spine, causing pain and frequent position changes
- Evidence of your scoliosis impacting additional body systems, such as your breathing
The more medical evidence that you have available, the better your chances of being approved for SSDI for scoliosis. You will need to provide documentation such as x-rays, CT scans, and comprehensive physician documentation illustrating that your ongoing treatment is not improving your condition.
What If I Don’t Meet or Match a Blue Book Listing for Scoliosis?
If you do not meet one of the listings described in the Blue Book, you may still qualify for financial assistance if you can provide enough medical evidence to demonstrate that you are too disabled to work. Individuals with scoliosis who do not meet a Blue Book listing, yet are still unable to work, could qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) through a medical-vocational allowance.
Utilizing a residual functioning capacity (RFC) evaluation, the SSA will determine how your ability to work is impacted by your scoliosis. An RFC will detail your physical limitations and restrictions due to your condition. Some individuals with severe scoliosis are unable to stand for long periods of time or have organ damage due to their rib cage pressing against the heart and lungs. If you are able to demonstrate that your scoliosis has permanently impacted your ability to perform your job, as well as adjust to other lines of work, you might be able to earn disability benefits.
How Do I Start the Disability Application Process for Scoliosis?
While most cases of scoliosis are not severe enough to win an SSDI claim, more advanced cases have won SSDI approval. A qualified attorney or disability advocate can help determine if you have sufficient medical evidence to proceed with your Social Security disability claim. Further, if you are denied a disability award, with is not uncommon, an experienced attorney can assist with the appeals process.