One of the most common impairments claimed in Social Security disability cases is degenerative disc disease (DDD). Despite its debilitating symptoms, any back injury disability lawyer will tell you that winning disability benefits on the basis of DDD is no easy feat. It is especially difficult for claimants who are under the age of 50.
How Is Degenerative Disc Disease Examined by the SSA?
A natural part of the aging process is that the vertebral discs shrink somewhat. If they shrink significantly, intermittent and severe pain can result, preventing the afflicted person from working or performing many physical activities. This might sound like an easy claim for you and your back injury disability lawyer to prove. However, the Social Security Administration carries a rather unrealistic standard when it comes to back injuries: They expect an individual to be able to return to work some time after their back injury, at a similar exertional level to what they were performing before.
To a back injury disability attorney, this means that a person who worked a medium-level exertional job in the past would be expected to return to such a job at some point, which might be unrealistic if the injury was severe.
Unfortunately, when it comes to pain impairments, the challenge faced by your back injury disability lawyer is that only you as the claimant know exactly how bad the pain is. The SSA affords little merit to purely written statements of pain, which is why your back injury disability lawyer will consider it important to obtain medical records that back up your claims. When it comes to DDD, the SSA is known to grant benefits only in cases where the pain is so severe that the claimant cannot sit or stand for prolonged periods.
What Kind of Evidence Can I Present?
Your back injury disability attorney will seek any evidence that helps substantiate your diagnosis of DDD. Disability examiners who review claims involving back injuries such as DDD, lumbar problems or degenerative joint disease, will look for any of the following:
• X-ray reports, CAT scans or MRI studies indicating disc deterioration.
• Clinical evidence of nerve room compression, swelling of the nerve roots or narrowing of the spinal column.
• Doctor’s notes indicating a diagnosis of such a condition.
The actual evidence or images obtained by these tests are not nearly as important to you and your back injury disability lawyer as the interpretation of them by your physician. Your imaging studies, such as CAT scans and MRI results, are the only objective evidence you can present, which makes them crucial to proving your claim of disability. Even if your doctor diagnoses you on the basis of your symptoms, the actual interpretation of imaging tests by your doctor is much more compelling. For that reason, your back injury disability attorney will want to make sure you follow up with any appointments for tests.
There are certain other symptoms that disability examiners look for and which your back injury disability lawyer might want you to mention, such as decreased range of motion, limited muscular strength, and a weakened gait (walking posture). These are only credible if observed by a physician. Your back injury disability lawyer will tell you that reports submitted by your chiropractor are not usable as evidence for your claim.
For more information on how to present a case that you are disabled due to DDD, contact a back injury disability lawyer at Schiffman Law Office, P.C., at (602) 235-0539.