Tag Archives: spinal compression
Spinal Stenosis and SSDI benefits
Spinal stenosis is the term for the narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord, or narrowing of the openings where spinal nerves leave the spinal column. If the narrowing progresses to the point that the nerves passing through these areas are compressed, this compression can cause severe pain. Spinal stenosis usually occurs as a person ages and the spinal disks become drier and start to bulge. Spinal stenosis may also be caused by arthritis of the spine, bone diseases, congenital birth defects, herniated or slipped disks, severe injuries or even tumors on the spine.
Typically, stenosis symptoms get worse over time and, while they often start by affecting only one side of the body or the other, they can grow to encompass both sides. These symptoms include: numbness, cramping, pain in the back, buttocks, thighs, calves, neck, shoulders, or arms, weakness of part of a leg or arm. Symptoms are more likely to be present or get worse when you stand or walk. They will often lessen or even totally disappear when you sit down. It for this reason that most people with spinal stenosis cannot walk for a long period of time.
Spinal stenosis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and pain medications, some of which specifically target nerve pain. Physical therapy and cortisone injections can also be prescribed. In some cases, surgery might be recommended to remove the bony tissue that is compressing the nerves.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) discusses Disorders of the Spine, including spinal stenosis, under Section 1.04 of the Blue Book. In order to meet or medically equal listing 1.04 with respect to obtaining Social Security Disability benefits, your medical records might show the following:
• You must be diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
• Your records must show that your condition has caused nerve root compression and that this compression has resulted in pain, limited range of motion of the spine, and muscle weakness. The SSA will require a straight-leg raising test to prove this.
• You must also demonstrate evidence of pseudoclaudication (leg pain that becomes worse with walking) that is severe enough that it results in an inability to effectively walk, and should include the results of all imaging studies (meaning, an MRI or CT scan).
It’s important that your medical records also document the precise treatments you have received and your reaction to those treatments. It’s critical that your doctor make sure to list all limitations spinal stenosis has caused in your everyday life, further demonstrating the need for disability benefits.
If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.
Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of ALJ Decisions
A recent article in the Washington Times discussed the increasing stress that the Social Security Disability system is operating under and how that stress has led to troubling problems affecting millions of Americans.
Investigators working for a Senate subcommittee examined hundreds of cases in which disability benefits were approved and found that those making the decisions frequently ignored warning signs such as incomplete or inconsistent information. Senators have said this review demonstrates the need for an overhaul of the existing system. One Senator said that the decisions from some administrative law judges (ALJs) were so bad that the final verdict seemed almost entirely arbitrary.
Though the first phase of this investigation involved looking over applications that were approved but should not have been, the Senate committee says it will next turn its attention to those cases that were denied and may have been denied wrongfully. Those in charge say they worry that they will discover the system is not helping many of the people it was designed to protect.
For its part, the Social Security Administration says it has work to do to fix problems in the system. However, they claim that outlier decisions occur far less often than they used to and the decisions of many ALJs are affirmed with much more regularity then ever before.
That may sound good, but problems still abound. The massive report showcased one ALJ from Oklahoma who has issued more than 1,000 decisions each year since 2006. Judge W. Howard O’Bryan Jr. peaked in 2008 with 1,846 decisions and regularly approved 90 percent or more of the claims. This compares to an average ALJ approval rate of about 60 percent. The investigation revealed that his decisions were notable only for their “poor quality” and how Judge O’Bryan often regurgitated the same boilerplate language in each case decision.
One case that apparently prompted the investigation, involved a man living as an adult “baby,” meaning he slept in an adult-sized crib and wore diapers. The man was collecting disability benefits despite having demonstrated carpentry skills and his ability to work with a reality TV show and a website for other adult “babies.”
The case of the adult “baby” highlighted another problem according to the Senate subcommittee and that is how out of date the list of jobs given to ALJs are. The list has not been updated since the 1970s and excludes many computer-related jobs that some people (possibly other adult “babies”) with disabilities might be able to perform.