What Kind of Musculoskeletal Disorders Qualify for SSDI?

Published on April 14th, 2020

Pain and injuries that prevent you from working are always difficult. When that pain is from a complicated musculoskeletal disorder, you may be completely unable to work long term. Because these conditions affect your ability to stand, walk and work, you may be unable to perform many types of occupations, especially those that are particularly physical.

If you’re seeking disability for a musculoskeletal disorder, you may be unsure of whether or not you may be qualified with your condition. The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book covers a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions that qualify for SSDI. They make determinations on a case-by case basis, based on ailment type, loss of function and severity. For instance, ordinary sprains will likely not qualify, but conditions such as muscular dystrophy will.

Muscle Conditions

The muscles throughout the body are responsible for assisting with movement, supporting your bones, and carrying your weight. When a muscle is compromised due to injury, deterioration or is rendered impaired, the loss of mobility and strength impacts your ability to work.

Some of the more common types of muscle problems can include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive motion injury that puts pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel passage in the arm
  • Muscular dystrophy, a series of conditions that cause progressive muscle weakness and loss
  • Torn ligaments
  • Hiatal hernia, a condition where the stomach pushes upwards through and into the muscle of the diaphragm
  • Sciatica, a condition where a sciatic nerve is compressed and causes pain in the lower body
  • Nerves affected by third degree burns
  • Spinal cord injuries caused by a blow to the spinal cord, such as in a car or work-related accident, which generally produces loss of sensation, strength and function in the area below the injury.
  • Whiplash and other spinal disorders, from car accidents or other activities that produce a similar action

If your condition isn’t on this short list, it doesn’t mean you don’t qualify. SSA rates a wide range of different conditions for which a listing doesn’t exist. Speaking with a musculoskeletal SSDI lawyer in New Jersey about your condition will give you an idea of how well you qualify as well as assist in filling out your application.

Bone Conditions

Disability can be awarded for a number of types of bone disorders, including:

  • Avascular necrosis, aka, osteonecrosis, or “bone death,” in which a bone or bone part fail to receive and adequate blood supply.
  • Apert Syndrome, or “bone fusion”
  • Bone spurs, especially those on the spine
  • Fractures
  • Amputations (in some cases, usually with two missing limbs)
  • Coccyx (tailbone) damage
  • Clubbed foot
  • Osteomalacia

Fractures are usually not something that qualifies for SSDI, since they generally heal in less than a 12-month period. However, more serious fractures to bones such as the femur, tarsal bones, pelvic bones or other bones that generally take longer to heal can qualify for SSDI. Therefore, you would need to show that the fracture will take a year or more to heal, preventing you from working.

Joint Conditions

It’s difficult to accomplish most jobs without some form of mobility. Pain and/or damage to joints can be debilitating, and prevent you from working if you can’t move correctly.

Joint conditions that may render you eligible for SSDI include:

  • Gout, where high uric acid levels in the bloodstream lead to crystallized deposits in the joints and tendons, leading to swollen painful joints, quickly decreased kidney function and stones, and uric acid crystals in the joint area that cause outgrowths
  • Pain, replacement and associated disorders of the shoulder, hip and knee
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory joint condition that causes severe pain, limitation of the joint, and chronic swelling
  • Spinal cord injury, fusion and disorders
  • Osteoporosis/osteoarthritis

The SSA’s Blue Book doesn’t have a specific listing for gout, but one for inflammatory arthritis, a closely related condition. You’ll find it under Listing 14.09.

Note that this is not a complete listing of all the musculoskeletal disability conditions that qualify for SSDI.

Applying For Musculoskeletal SSDI Benefits

The SSA’s “Blue Book,” uses a standard they call the “inability to ambulate effectively.” In plain English, it means a person’s inability to move or walk on their own, or that they are required to use a “hand held device” in order to walk and move properly.

Musculoskeletal disorders are one of the most frequently applied-for disabilities, as well as one of the most frequently denied. One of the issues with qualifying is that this class of disorder is not readily visible, and therefore can be difficult to document. Quantifying the accompanying pain and the physical restrictions is also difficult, so keeping a journal of how your condition affects you can be helpful.  Additionally, these types of injuries are frequently not work-related, and may be hereditary and/or congenital.

Since many musculoskeletal disorders improve with time, you will be required to prove that your condition has lasted or will last twelve months or longer, and will prevent you from working at least that long. You’ll still have the burden of proof to show that you are no longer able to work, and cannot be trained for a different position for which you can work with your condition.

Just having a disorder does not automatically qualify you for SSDI. You’ll be required to show the SSA that you’ve consulted with a physician, and the testing involved in a diagnosis, such as X-rays and other medical imaging tests. The SSA will also consider whether you’ve received continual medical treatment, including regular doctor visits. You’ll also be judged on whether you’re continuing to receive treatment, as well as whether and how the prescribed treatments are affecting your condition.

Need Help With Musculoskeletal SSDI Benefits? Contact Maryjean Ellis

Applying for Social Security Disability for musculoskeletal disorders is a complex process, but help is available. Getting help from a Musculoskeletal SSDI lawyer in New Jersey greatly increases your chances of a successful outcome.   Whether you’re just starting your application, or need help with an appeal, we have the skills and experience to make sure your case is handled to the best of our ability. Contact the Law Office of Maryjean Ellis for your complimentary case review and discuss how we can help you with an application or appeal for disability benefits.


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