Qualifying for Social Security Disability After a Spinal Cord Injury

How To Qualify for Social Security Disability After a Spinal Cord Injury

If you or someone you love has recently experienced a spinal cord injury, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly benefits for people who are unable to work for at least 12 months due to a serious disability. If it's not looking like you'll return to work this year, you may be eligible for Social Security disability after a spinal cord injury.

Medically Qualifying for Social Security Benefits

The SSA uses its medical guide, known as the Blue Book, when awarding disability benefits to applicants. If your medical results or symptoms meet what's outlined in the section for spinal cord injuries in the Blue Book, you'll be approved for disability benefits. The SSA added a new listing for spinal cord injuries in the Blue Book in Fall 2017. There are currently three ways to qualify for disability benefits with a spinal cord injury. If you can meet one of the following criteria, your claim should be approved:

  1. You are completely unable to move either your arms or your legs
  2. You have difficulty moving two limbs, which results in the inability to "ambulate effectively." This is defined as being unable to do one of the following:
  3. Stand from a chair
    • Balance while standing
    • Walk without the use of a wheelchair, a walker, or two crutches
  4. You have some physical limitations that make it challenging to work, but they're not as extreme as the criteria outlined in #2. Additionally, you have difficulty in one of the following areas of mental functioning:
    • Understanding and remembering information
    • Interacting with others in the workplace
    • Concentrating and completing tasks
    • "Adapting oneself," which essentially means controlling emotions

The entire Blue Book can be found online, so you can always review it with your doctor or physical therapies to determine if your spinal cord injury will qualify.

It's important to note that all three listings for spinal cord injuries require that you have been unable to work for at least three months after your accident. The SSA requires this because many people are able to make good progress with physical therapy after experiencing a spinal cord injury, so if your injury is recent and you apply early, you may be automatically denied benefits due to a technicality.

Starting Your Application for Social Security Benefits

Three months (or more) after your injury, you'll be able to apply for disability. The easiest way to do so is online on the SSA's website. If you are unable to type, you can always ask a family member to fill out the application on your behalf. If you'd rather get help from a Social Security official, you can make an appointment to apply in person at your closest Social Security office. Call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213 to apply in person.

It should take three to five months to hear back from the SSA regarding your time. In the meanwhile, you can focus on what's important: your health.

This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/or by emailing them at help@ssd-help.org.

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