Can I work with Neuromuscular Scoliosis?
An individual suffering from scoliosis will have a curvature in their spine varying from mild to severe. There are three types or categories of scoliosis. The first is idiopathic, meaning there is no definite cause. This is the most common type of scoliosis and tends to be hereditary. The second is congenital caused by a birth defect. The third type is neuromuscular. Neuromuscular scoliosis impairs an individual’s ability to control muscles that support the spine. This condition typically presents on children and is often associated with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and spina bifida.
The cause of neuromuscular scoliosis is from a disorder of the brain, spinal cord and muscular system wherein your nerves and muscles are unable to maintain balance and alignment of the spine and trunk. Thus, resulting in a curvature of the spine.
Neuromuscular scoliosis tends to progress with age, de-pending upon the severity of the curve. It is said someone with a mild curve may not progress whereas someone with a 50-degree curve may progress 1-2 degrees every year. The curvature of your spine can cause uneven distribution of weight resulting in severe pain and neurological problems such as numbness and weakness. It is not abnormal for an individual with neuromuscular scoliosis to have one leg longer than another.
Unlike most back related conditions, conservative treatment such as physical therapy and chiropractic care will not improve the condition. In fact, that type of treatment may make the condition worse. Scoliosis is typically treated with a back brace so as to support the spine, keeping it in one place. Other types of treatment may include a spinal fusion. A fusion is done to straighten the spine using metal rods, hooks, screws and wires, thus solidifying the spine, removing the curve.
If your neuromuscular scoliosis is causing you problems such that you are unable to work, applying for social security disability may be the right decision for you. Medical documentation, supporting your diagnosis will be required. The best documentation would include imaging showing the actual curvature to your spine, along with treatment notes from an orthopedist or neurologist documenting your physical examination.
To qualify for social security disability benefits, you must be found disabled based upon social security’s definition of disability. The social security administration defines disability as an individual’s inability to perform substantial gainful activity due to a severe medical condition that is expected to last for a minimum of 12 months or result in death. When determining if an individual is disabled under this definition, social security will use a five-step analysis.
Step one in the analysis is to determine if the individual is engaging in substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity is a monthly earned income amount social security has set to determine whether someone is eligible for disability benefits or not. The amount of SGA changes yearly. In 2020, SGA is quantified as $1,260. What this means is that if you are working and earn over $1,260 per month you are disqualified from applying for disability benefits. This step does not take into account your actual condition, only whether you are earning SGA or not. If you are not earning SGA, social security will progress to step two in the analysis.
Step two considers requires an individual to suffer from a severe medical condition. In determining severity, you must show your condition(s) posing more than a minimal impact upon your ability to work. The threshold for this requirement is quite low and tends to favor the Claimant. As long as you can show your condition poses some type of functional limitation you will generally be found to suffer from a severe impairment.
Step three is a bit different in the analysis. Step three considers whether your disability qualifies as one of social security’s listed impairments. Social security’s Listings are simply a list of conditions that are deemed so severe that they will automatically qualify you for disability benefits. If your condition does not meet or equal a listing you still may be found disabled based upon your functional capacity. But first, SSA will consider whether a Listing applies in your case.
In terms of neuromuscular scoliosis, social security will evaluate your condition using Listing 1.04. Listing 1.04 requires proof of a disorder of the spine such as herniated disc, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, or vertebral fracture resulting in compromise of a nerve root or spinal cord with one of the following. 1. Evidence of a nerve root compression demonstrated by motor loss or decreased range of motion. 2. Spinal arachnoiditis with severe burning or painful dysesthesia resulting in the need for changes in position more than once every two hours. 3. Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in psuedoclaudication with chronic non-radicular pain and weakness resulting in the inability to ambulate effectively. The proof generally required to meet this listing includes imaging of the spine such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRI’s. Other evidence would include operative reports or treatment notes documenting a physical examination of the spine and resulting limitations.
If you are found not to meet or equal a Listing, social security will then determine whether you are capable of performing your past work or other work in the national economy. Step four specifically looks at your past relevant work. Past relevant work includes any work that you performed within the past fifteen years as long as you worked the position long enough to learn it and earned substantial gainful activity. To determine if you are capable of performing your past work, social security will determine what your residual functional capacity is. This is essentially figuring out what you are functionally capable of doing, in spite of your conditions, both physical and mental. If you are found incapable of performing your past work, social security will then consider whether you are capable of other work at Step five. Other work continues any type of job in the United States national economy, as listed in the Dictionary of Occupational titles. If you are found incapable of performing other work based upon your functional capacity you will then be found disabled under social security’s definition of disability.
Suffering from neuromuscular scoliosis can pose a severe impact upon your ability to work. Depending upon the severity of the curvature in your spine you may find most physical activities quite difficult to perform. If this is your situation, you should consider applying for these benefits as soon as possible. At the LaBovick Laws Group, we will handle your case on a contingency basis, from start to finish. Meaning, we will take care of starting your claim and will only get paid if we are able to obtain you benefits. Call us today at (561) 625-8400 to get your claim started!