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

Spinal cord injuries are common injuries that occur most frequently as a result of motor vehicle accidents. The severity of the injury depends on many factors, but often spinal cord injuries cause paralysis and pain that can make it impossible to work. Anyone who sustains a spinal cord injury (SCI) and thinks that they will be unable to work for at least a year can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits to help pay for living expenses while they are unable to work.

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Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits with a Spinal Cord Injury

There are more than 17,000 spinal cord injuries every year, and each one is unique in the way that it affects the person who is injured. The Social Security Administration's Blue Book has clearly defined requirements that must be met in order for someone to be eligible for disability benefits as a result of a spinal cord injury.

There are two listings in the Blue Book that deal with spinal cord injuries. The first one is directly related to the spinal cord injuries. To qualify for benefits under that designation, you must prove that the spinal cord has sustained damage and support that claim with a doctor's diagnosis, MRI, and X-ray images. You will also need to show that there is compression on the spinal cord that makes it impossible for your to walk on your own. If your injury doesn't meet those requirements, you may qualify under the other designation listed for neurological disorders which accounts for those who are paralyzed and cannot walk at all, even with adaptive devices. You will need to provide medical documentation of your injury in order to be eligible for benefits.

If your spinal cord injury doesn't fit either designation, but still makes it impossible to work, you can be eligible for disability benefits through the Medical Vocational Allowance.

Medical Vocational Allowance

The Medical Vocational Allowance makes it possible for people who don't fit the exact requirements of the Blue Book to get disability benefits. You will need to ask for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. The SSA performs this evaluation to see if there is any kind of work that you can do and what symptoms you have. You can use your medical documentation to bolster your claim. Some of the common symptoms caused by spinal cord injuries that could make it impossible to work include:

  • Being unable to walk for more than one block without needing to take a break
  • Being unable to bend over or stoop down
  • Being unable to lift objects over 10 pounds
  • Being unable to sit up or stand for at least two hours per day
  • Needing to keep one leg elevated throughout the day
  • Needing to move around or change positions frequently
  • Needing to lie down for most of the day
  • Not being able to sit down for at least six hours during a workday

If you can document that you suffer from these symptoms, and the RFC exam shows that there is no type of work that you can do with those symptoms, you can be eligible to get disability benefits.

Starting the Application

You can apply for Social Security benefits online, but if you are going to ask for a RFC evaluation or if you need help with the application, you should call and make an appointment at your local SSA office. A staff member there can answer your questions and help you fill out the application for benefits.

For questions regarding how to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, please visit the Disability Benefits Center website or contact their team at

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Date: 3/3/2020 12:00:00 AM

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