Any damage to the spinal column is serious and can be totally debilitating. The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) has determined a scale that gives spinal injuries an A–E grade based on the sufferer’s functionality where “A” is a “complete” injury with loss of all motor and sensory function, and “E” signifies that motor and sensory test scores are normal; however, even with an “E” grade, other complications may exist. The Social Security Administration doesn’t use ASIA’s (yes, that’s the official acronym) scale, but a rating will help you understand how you compare to the SSA listing; having this information properly documented will also make it easier for the SSA to understand your claim. In order for your claim to be approved, your injury has to meet a strict definition.
Disorders of the musculoskeletal system may result from hereditary, congenital, or acquired pathologic processes. Impairments may result from infectious, inflammatory, or degenerative processes, traumatic or developmental events, or neoplastic, vascular, or toxic/metabolic diseases.
There are a number of things that you will have to prove to the SSA before they accept your claim. The crux of their decision will be whether or not your condition prevents you from holding “gainful employment” for at least one year. The SSA defines loss of function for musculoskeletal disorders as the inability to ambulate effectively and/or limitation or incapacity of motor functions.
Regardless of the cause(s) of a musculoskeletal impairment, functional loss for purposes of these listings is defined as the inability to ambulate effectively on a sustained basis for any reason, including pain associated with the underlying musculoskeletal impairment, or the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively on a sustained basis for any reason, including pain associated with the underlying musculoskeletal impairment.
The evidence you provide should clearly show that your condition meets these requirements; it is vital that you begin documenting your treatment and diagnoses right away. Talk to your doctor about your medical records to make sure they present the facts in a consistent and clear manner. This will make it easier for the SSA to make a decision when you need to present your records as evidence.
Causes of Spinal Injury
Damage to the vertebrae and spinal column can happen during seemingly innocuous events. Even a seemingly minor fall can compress the cartilage discs that separate the vertebrae, causing them to swell or herniate. If a herniated disc, also called a slipped disc, goes unnoticed, it will make severe nerve damage much more likely and can be very painful on its own. Like other chronic impairments, spinal injuries may worsen or cause other injuries over time, so it is important that you seek treatment immediately and talk to your doctor about possible complications. Spinal injuries can be caused by assaults, vehicle collisions, and other trauma, as well as congenital or acquired conditions; the leading cause is car accidents, followed by falls, then acts of violence. Common spinal injuries include vertebral fractures, compression, and dislocation. Piercing injuries may damage or sever the spinal cord itself where damage to the vertebrae may injure the spinal column indirectly or over time. Please visit Mayo Clinic’s excellent website for more information about the causes of spinal injury.
Spinal injury causes a wide number of symptoms. Evidence of nerve damage can be obvious if the impairments are severe enough, but it can manifest in the following ways:
- Loss of movement
- Numbness or tingling
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
- Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from the lungs
- Extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head or back
- Weakness, trouble coordinating movements, or paralysis, in any part of the body
Spinal injuries lead to a plethora of complications. Complications can appear immediately, at the scene of an accident, or weeks after, or may develop due to an undiagnosed bone or joint disorder. Chronic pain due to nerve damage is common in incomplete injuries. Depending on the location of the injury, difficulty controlling the bladder and the bowels may occur. Partial or complete loss of sensation below the site of the injury is also very common. Problems with blood circulation may also occur; this includes low blood pressure, swelling of the extremities, increased risk of clotting, and potentially life-threatening rise in blood pressure. These complications can be very serious, but with the help of your doctor and physical therapists, you can regain control of your life. It is important to start working with your doctor now to keep track of all the treatments you receive as a result of the injury; having all the evidence you need to make an SSD claim will ease the burden of recovery and help you avoid the negative psychological effects of your impairment. When they look at your case, the SSA will want to find very specific evidence presented in a specific matter; working through a legal case while recovering from injury is a lot for anyone to handle. If you contact a experienced Utah SSD attorney, the chances of having your claim approved will be much greater and you can focus on treating with your doctor.
SSA Listing of Impairments
ASIA Education Center
Photo “Lumbar Spine X-Ray L4 L5 S1” copyright by Michael Dorausch.