Approximately 10 million people in the United States have Osteoporosis, with another 44 million at risk due to low bone density. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, Osteoporosis is responsible for an estimated two million broken bones a year. While many people have Osteoporosis for years with no significant difficulties, others with severe cases are completely bedridden.
If you have Osteoporosis and are unable to earn a living, there could be financial help available to you. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was created to assist those who have become disabled due to an illness such as Osteoporosis.
What Exactly Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become increasingly weak and brittle. Our bones are living tissues, and the cells within them continuously die and are replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone does not keep up with the breakdown of old bone.
In its early stages, Osteoporosis often has no signs or symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, people may experience a loss of height, a change in posture, or a new onset of back pain. The majority of individuals find out that they have Osteoporosis when they unexpectedly break a bone. In severe cases, even the slightest movement, such as a cough or a sneeze, can cause a bone fracture.
Women are four times more likely to suffer from Osteoporosis than men, and Caucasian and Asian-American women are at higher risk. As women reach menopause, and a drop in estrogen occurs, the risk for Osteoporosis also increases.
Osteoporosis is considered a progressive disease, meaning that for most people it tends to get worse over time. Therefore, if you have been denied Social Security benefits in the past, you may qualify later if your condition has worsened. While there is no known cure for Osteoporosis, there are many possible ways to help slow, and perhaps even stop the progression. These treatments could include diet modifications, exercise, and medications.
What Symptoms Do I Need to Qualify?
Osteoporosis is a common diagnosis. Typically bone-loss alone will not qualify you for Social Security benefits. However, there is a broad range of debilitating symptoms and associated health problems that might affect your ability to work. Below are some signs that your Osteoporosis might qualify you for disability benefits:
- Repeated bone fractures or pain that make it difficult for you to stand or walk for extended periods of time. If your job requires that you stand or walk for extended periods, such as health care workers or restaurant employees, you may qualify for SSDI benefits.
- Osteoporosis can occur as a result of medications taken for other illnesses. For example, if you have arthritis, your doctor may prescribe steroids to help reduce swelling and pain. However, steroids can accelerate bone loss and are one of the leading causes of secondary-osteoporosis.
- The risk of osteoporosis is higher in people with other medical problems, such as kidney disease, lupus, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease. If you have other medical issues combined with Osteoporosis, you may have a higher likelihood of being considered for benefits.
- Often, those suffering from Osteoporosis also suffer from changes in their vitamin and hormone levels. If your blood work shows that your hormone levels are affected, you may have additional evidence to assist you with acquiring Social Security benefits.
- Some doctors prescribe medications such as Fosamax or Boniva to help slow bone loss. These drugs, called bisphosphonates, may irritate the lining of your stomach and esophagus and cause nausea and vomiting. If the side effects from your Osteoporosis medications cause other severe health issues, you may qualify for Social Security benefits.
Do I Qualify for Social Security Benefits?
In order to qualify for Social Security benefits, your medical records will need to show that your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working at a level which would support you. Additionally, your illness needs to be disabling for at least 12 months. As previously mentioned, Osteoporosis is a progressive disease that is unlikely to get better over time. The level of disability that you are currently experiencing is, unfortunately, likely to decline.
What Information Will I Need to Provide?
When applying for Social Security, you may be asked to provide the following:
- Confirmation of your diagnosis of Osteoporosis from a qualified Physician.
- Bone Density (also called DXA) scan results.
- X-rays, MRIs, or other imaging results demonstrating fractures.
- Blood and urine tests related to your Osteoporosis diagnosis, which may include vitamin D levels, calcium levels, bone-specific alkaline phosphatase levels, osteocalcin, and thyroid related blood tests.
- Notes from your doctor, physical therapist, psychologist, or other health care provider that describe your symptoms and illness.
If you have Osteoporosis, you should speak to your doctor to ensure that you have all of the medical documentation needed. The more medical documentation that you have, the better your chances of receiving financial help from the SSA.
I'm Ready to Apply--What’s Next?
If you have been diagnosed with Osteoporosis and you believe that you may qualify for Social Security benefits, you should contact a disability advocate or lawyer in your area. A qualified attorney can help you navigate the Social Security application process and assist you in determining your eligibility for financial assistance.