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Degenerative Disc Disease: 4 Tips to Obtain the Most Out of Your Claim

Published January 19, 2018    
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The Social Security Administration (SSA) receives more disability applications for back problems than it does for any other physical illness or injury. These claims are subject to a lengthy approval process, which can be discouraging for claimants who are already in chronic, sometimes crippling, pain. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is one of the most common impairments for people applying for disability benefits. Despite the numerous claims for this disorder, it is not an easy case to win, especially for people younger than 50. And if you’re under 40, well, it’s even more difficult. “In many cases, Social Security will expect an individual who has performed work of a certain exceptional level to go back to that same job after a period of time off after a back injury, or to a job where the physical exertion requirements are similar,” former Social Security disability claims officer Tim Moore wrote in an article for Nolo. “This usually means that the person who performed medium-level work in the past (medium exertion is defined as the ability to lift 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently) is expected to return to such work. Obviously, in many cases, this is unfair and not at all realistic.” “Anyone who has ever experienced severe and continuous back pain (myself included) knows how debilitating the effect can be. And anyone in perfect health who has ever picked up a 50-pound weight knows how heavy that weight is,” Moore wrote.

Four Suggestions to help your DDD Disability Case:

Tip 1: Get Regular Medical Treatment

The onus is on you to prove your condition. Regular medical treatment means up-to-date medical records, which disability examiners and administrative law judges need to review to understand your condition. The experts recommend seeing your doctor at least once every two months and keeping easily accessible copies of all information you receive in a visit.

Tip 2: See One Doctor

Back pain affects about 80 percent of the US population. Chances are your doctor sees a high volume of patients each day. To be seen as more than just a time slot, it is essential to develop a rapport with your doctor. See the same doctor frequently, instead of several doctors on a sporadic basis. With only a fleeting glimpse into your condition, your doctor will have difficulty completing a statement to support your case. The more a doctor knows about you and your degenerative disc disease, the easier it will be to write a robust statement that supports the veracity of your claim. “I have personally spoken with dozens of physicians who said they were unable to complete a statement supporting a claimant's Social Security case because they had not seen the claimant enough times, or anytime recently,” Moore wrote.

Tip 3: Be Forthcoming with Your Doctor

Doctors often do not test physical limitations that pertain to your ability to work. If you have difficulty bending, stooping or crouching, tell your doctor. Social Security disability examiners look for these limitations when evaluating your claim. When the examiners interview you, they will ask about your ability to complete tasks involving these movements. Mention these symptoms to your doctor to ensure that they are included in the official record of your condition.

Tip 4: Keep Your Friends and Family Up to Date

As part of the investigation, Social Security disability claims examiners may call the people closest to you. They’ll ask questions about your physical limitations. While we know it’s unpleasant and it can feel like a burden to share your pain with your friends and family, it is essential to give them an accurate picture of your symptoms so they can relay the information to the examiners. While the stated purpose of activities of daily living (ADL) calls is to gather support for disability claims, they often provide the proof that examiners need to deny claims. That’s because friends and family often do not have all the information they need to validate your condition on the fly when the examiners call. Claiming disability due to degenerative disc disease is an arduous process that can be more painful by its ongoing focus on your back pain. Stay the course. The tips outlined above will not only help support your claim, but will keep you on track to managing and treating your condition. Be proactive in seeking the support you need — from physicians, friends, and family.

Last change: January 28, 2019