Social Security Makes it Harder to Get Disability for Musculoskeletal Disorders

April 1, 2021

Musculoskeletal disorders are medical conditions which affect your arms, legs, joints, or spinal cord. An estimated 126.6 million Americans (one out of every two adults) are affected by a musculoskeletal disorder. There are dozens of musculoskeletal disorders. We have many informative blog posts on qualifying for disability due to specific musculoskeletal disorders. You will find a list of blogs with links to the posts at the end of this article.

For some individuals with a musculoskeletal disorder, their condition is so severely painful and debilitating that it is impossible for them to continue working. Social Security disability programs, which we pay for with taxes and deductions from our paychecks, are intended to provide financial help to those who cannot work due to a disability. It has always been difficult to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, but now the Social Security Administration (SSA) has made it harder to qualify for benefits due to musculoskeletal disorders.

Social Security has a set of procedures in place to identify disabilities that are medically eligible for disability benefits. These procedures are published in a handbook known as the “Blue Book,” (once published as a book but now available online), and it includes a list of various disabling conditions known as “listings.” The listings also spell out the specific medical requirements for eligibility. The SSA has a history of making changes to the listings and, in general, the changes do not help claimants. This is the case with these new changes to the musculoskeletal listings. The listings for musculoskeletal disorders are under listing 1.00. The language is often dense and complicated and the medical requirements have always been stringent, but now they are even more severe.

While many of the listing changes are both highly technical and specific, there are some common factors. To qualify for benefits under the new listings, you must prove that both of your hands are not able to perform work-related functions or that both of your hands are not available for work-related functions because they must be used for devices to walk—like crutches or a wheelchair. If you only need one hand to operate a wheelchair or other mobility device, you may not be eligible for disability benefits. Previously, an inability to ambulate—to walk or move about—could be the basis for a successful benefits claim, but the SSA says that in itself is no longer considered a disabling condition.

In the new listings, documentation of a neuromuscular impairment from an acceptable healthcare professional like a doctor, a surgeon, or a nurse practitioner has become more essential. Additionally Social Security will be looking for evidence of the impairment through medical tests or imaging, such as an MRI.

If you have a musculoskeletal impairment which has made it impossible for you to hold a job, check with us at Nash Disability Law for a free evaluation of your situation. We can help you navigate through the SSA’s new listing requirements and advise you on the best way to go about filing a Social Security disability claim.

For more detailed information about qualifying for Social Security disability benefits for specific neuromuscular conditions, visit our website and go to the “Qualifying Impairments” tab or click on these links: