Is Degenerative Disc Disease a Disability?

Yes, degenerative disc disease (DDD) can be considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA), but the criteria for acceptance as a qualifying disability is quite exacting and many disability benefit applications for degenerative disc disease are rejected at first.

A diagnosis of DDD and medical evidence of its progressive deterioration must be obtained from a qualified medical doctor or an osteopath. The SSA’s Blue Book listing requires evidence that the following symptoms are present:

  • lumbar spinal stenosis,
  • nerve root compression,
  • spinal arachnoiditis.

Is Degenerative Disc Disease a Disability?

Is degenerative disc disease a disability? Yes, if the DDD symptoms have progressed to the point that work has become impossible, or a medical assessment shows that you will be unlikely to be able to work for at least the next 12 months, then you may qualify for a disability benefit.

Types of Degenerative Disc Disease That Are a Disability

Degenerative disc disease is a symptomatic degeneration of one or more spinal discs in the neck or lower back. Theoretically it could occur at any point along the spinal column.

It is caused by wear and tear along the spinal column which can lead to the discs between certain vertebrae to no longer provide the lubrication they are intended to provide. As the disc or discs degenerate, it becomes more and more difficult to move the back and intense pain can be felt when the spine is moved.

Symptoms commonly experienced by a DDD sufferer include numbness, muscle stiffness and weakness, the severity and intensity of which vary depending on whether treatment is successful. Often a DDD sufferer goes through cycles of improvement, followed by further deterioration.

Qualify for SSDI with Degenerative Joint Disease

How to Get Disability Benefits For Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is covered by Section 1.04 (musculoskeletal disorders) of the SSA’s Blue Book under disorders of the spine. A DDD benefit approval is difficult to achieve as the requirements must show that the symptoms are severe enough to prevent being able to work for at least 12 months and that treatment is unable to reverse or prevent the pain from stopping you from working.

Many DDD benefit applicants may opt to obtain a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment in addition to any medical evidence documenting their spinal condition deterioration. As DDD affects the back, it can make it particularly hard to stand, bend or carry heavy weights for any extended period and it is this that is assessed in an RFC.

To be successful obtaining approval for a DDD disability benefit application, the criteria under the Blue Book listing must be present together with an RFC assessment confirming inability to work.

Get Help With Your Degenerative Disc Disease Disability Claim

A DDD disability benefit claim can be particularly difficult because the criteria for approval are exacting. It is important to accept legal help from a disability attorney as well as obtain as much medical evidence as necessary to convince the examiners at the SSA’s Disability Determination Services that your condition is severe enough.

The attorney’s help doesn’t guarantee you approval, but does make it easier, especially if your application is initially rejected and you are forced to go through the appeal process.

Additional Resources

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