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Does a Spinal Cord Injury Qualify for Disability?

Researchers say that there are as many as 300,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in the United States. Additionally, around 18,000 people sustain a new spinal cord injury each year across the country. Often, these incidents are caused by vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, sports injuries, or another type of severe incident. We want to discuss whether or not a person with a spinal cord injury can file for Social Security disability benefits. We know that this is incredibly important for families who may be struggling to pay the exorbitant medical bills and having to adjust to less income if a victim can no longer work.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits After a Spinal Cord Injury

You may have heard that it is incredibly difficult for individuals to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, especially on the first round of the application. First, it is important to know that disability benefits will only be approved if the injury meets the requirements listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book

In order for a person to qualify for disability as a result of a spinal cord injury, an individual must have a documented injury that causes one of the following three conditions:

  1. Complete loss of function of any body part. This can include the paralysis of an arm or a leg. Individuals who experience paraplegia (the loss of use of lower limbs) or quadriplegia (the loss of use of all limbs) will typically automatically qualify for benefits in this scenario. However, even those who are not paraplegic or quadriplegic can still qualify. Spinal cord injuries can cause paralysis of other muscles and result in a person qualifying for disability benefits.
  2. Have abnormal ability in the movement of two extremities. This can include an arm and a leg, two legs, or two arms. The injury will have to result in extreme difficulty in the ability to balance while walking or standing, the ability to stand up from a seated position, or the ability to use hands or arms. 
  3. A significant physical spinal cord issue that is not quite extreme, but combined with serious limitation in any of the following cognitive areas:
    1. The ability to remember, understand or use information 
    2. Social interactions with others
    3. The ability to work quickly or concentrate on tasks
    4. The ability to adapt to new changes or take care of oneself

Any individual wishing to qualify for Social Security disability benefits after a spinal cord injury will have to submit adequate evidence, including a diagnosis from a doctor, test and scan results, as well as statements from caseworkers and various other professionals.

What About the Medical-Vocational Allowance?

Individuals who do not meet the Blue Book qualifications for Social Security disability benefits may still qualify for disability benefits under the Medical-Vocational Allowance. This is not something that many people are aware of, but it does allow a person to file a claim for benefits and ask for a Residual Functional Capacity Evaluation from the SSA. If an evaluation discovers that a person cannot work any type of full-time job with their current injuries and disability, a claim for disability benefits may be approved.

Regardless of the route that an individual is taking to receive Social Security disability benefits, it is incredibly important to work with a skilled spinal cord injury attorney in Orange County who has the resources and experience necessary to handle every aspect of these claims. Dealing with the Social Security Administration can be challenging and frustrating, but an attorney will be able to help you with every step of the process.