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Social Security For Neck Pain

Posted February 25, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Lower back pain and neck pain are among the top contributors to chronic pain among adults. Neck pain has an annual prevalence rate exceeding 30% among adults in the US; nearly 50% of individuals will continue to experience some degree of chronic neck pain or frequent occurrences. Among adults, 20% to 70% will experience neck pain that interferes with their daily activities during their lifetime.

Neck pain and problems can be caused by many different issues: muscle strain, joints that become worn, nerve compression, injury, and disease. Many of the neck problems seen on disability applications are due to degenerative disk disease, whiplash, herniated discs, inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, slippage of a vertebra (retrolisthesis or spondylolisthesis), pinched nerves, infections such as meningitis, and certain types of cancer.

Symptoms of neck pain and problems can include sharp, shooting pain, numbness, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, headache, pains in the face and/or shoulders, and arm tingling and numbness.

In order to qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or SSI benefits for neck pain or problems, claimants must either a) meet the requirements of one of Social Security’s official disability listings, or b) prove that they don’t have the capacity to return to work because of their neck pain or doctors’ restrictions.

Claims involving neck pain will be evaluated under Adult Listing 1.15, for disorders of the spine resulting in “compromise of a nerve root.” Compromise of a nerve root, sometimes referred to as “nerve root impingement,” is a phrase used when a physical object, such as a tumor, herniated disc, foreign body, or arthritic spur, is pushing on the nerve root as seen on imaging or during surgery. It can occur when a musculoskeletal disorder produces irritation, inflammation, or compression of the nerve root(s) as it exits the skeletal spine between the vertebrae. Related symptoms must be associated with, or follow the path of, the affected nerve root(s).

However, even if you are not found to be disabled under the listings, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you are found unable to return to work due to your medical impairments. Social Security will assess your limitations and how they limit your ability to do work activities using a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. For example, you may have limitations regarding the use of your hands and arms to lift and/or carry objects, type a ta computer, or grasp and handle small objects.

Social Security will review your medical records and any statements from your doctor to find limitations to create your RFC. The agency will then consider your RFC, your job experience, your education, and your age to see if there are any jobs left that you can do.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Adult Listing 1.15 – https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/1.00-Musculoskeletal-Adult.htm#1_15 

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

What Does Black History Month Have To Do With Full Retirement Age?

Posted February 11, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

February 9, 2022 | By Faigy Gilder, NOSSCR

As February is Black History Month, we’re taking some time to reflect on the black community’s unique intersections with Social Security and how history can inform future equity. One clear and simple truth that arises upon reflection is that raising the full Social Security retirement age would disproportionately hurt people of color and erase the equality the programs have historically promoted.

Before her appointment as Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi was a fellow at the Urban Institute whose research included the role of Social Security in the economic security of African American workers. Most African American workers were initially excluded from Social Security benefits, but through policy changes over time, it has become a tool that reduces economic disparities between black and white families. Still, people of color face structural racism in America’s labor market, which inevitably leads to different decisions in retirement plans and savings. There are higher rates of unemployment or underemployment, lower wages paid for the same level of experience in jobs, and a higher frequency of employers who don’t offer retirement and other benefits.

Given this economic inequality, Dr, Kijakazi’s research analyzes proposals for improving Social Security’s solvency with the lens of potential disparate racial impact. One of the more caustic proposals was to increase to the full retirement age (FRA) from 67 to 69:

This proposed change is projected to reduce Social Security benefits in 2065 for both African American and white beneficiaries by about 6 percent if they retire at the proposed FRA. This change is premised on longer life expectancy, but African American workers have shorter life expectancy than white workers on average. Moreover, African American workers face greater health challenges and may be unable to remain in the labor force until the FRA. Currently, if a worker retires early (age 62 according to the FRA), his or her benefit is permanently reduced to compensate for each additional month benefits are received before age 67. If the FRA were increased to 69, those retiring at 62 would have their full benefits reduced by about 40 percent. Nearly half of retirement beneficiaries claim benefits at age 62. The federal poverty level for African American seniors is projected to increase by 1 percent under this proposal.

We cannot go backward in the progress Social Security has made in providing increased economic security for African Americans. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the life expectancy differences between white people and people of color. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while life expectancy declined by one and a half years overall, the disparity “between the non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black population increased from 4.1 years in 2019 to 5.8 years in 2020.” The gap had been narrowing over the three decades prior.

So, during this month and beyond, when proposals to secure Social Security’s solvency arise, make sure to analyze them through the lens of historic racial injustices and current economic disparities. Together we can find solutions that continue to bridge gaps and promote equity.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

February is American Heart Month

Posted February 4, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, it is largely preventable (see links below for heart health tips). If you suffer from a heart condition, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Certain impairments are considered severe enough by themselves to warrant a finding of disability based solely on your condition. These are Social Security’s “Adult Listings” for disability. The most common listings for heart conditions are: 

  • Chronic heart failure. To qualify under the listing for CHF, your condition must have systolic or diastolic heart failure. Additionally, your heart conditions must fall within given parameters while it is stable. You must also meet one of the following conditions: Poor performance on an exercise tolerance test, three or more occurrences of heart failure within one year (must have fluid retention and require hospitalization), or symptoms which would limit your ability to work and which would suggest that an exercise test would present a danger to you.
  • Ischemic Heart Disease. To qualify under this listing, you must meet one or more of the following: Coronary artery disease (this requires an angiography, medical imaging, and either an exercise test or medical documentation showing why an exercise test would be too dangerous to your health), three distinct ischemic episodes, with each of them needing revascularization (or in which revascularization is not possible), or an exercise test which shows that you fall within the SSA’s guidelines for complete disability.
  • Recurrent Arrhythmia. To qualify for disability benefits based on recurring arrhythmias, the medical evidence must show that the condition is not reversible and that it results in near syncope or syncope.
  • Symptomatic Congenital Heart Disease. For symptomatic congenital heart disease, the SSA considers evidence from medical imaging or a heart catheter. They will look to see whether your hematocrit levels and O2 saturation meet with their criteria. You may also qualify if you have right to left shunting or if your systolic pressure is significantly elevated (70% of systemic or higher).
  • Heart Transplant. You will automatically be considered disabled for at least one year after a heart transplant.
  • Aneurysm of the Aorta or Major Branches. Regardless of the cause, you will be considered disabled if appropriate medical imaging confirms an aneurysm of the aorta or any major branch.
  • Chronic Venous Insufficiency. You will be considered disabled if you have an obstruction and meet one or more of the following: brawny edema which involves 2/3 or more of your leg from the knee to the ankle or 1/3 from your ankle to your hip OR persistent or recurrent ulcerations which fail to heal after being treated for three months.
  • Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Must be shown by medical imaging and fall within the SSA’s guidelines for your blood pressure.

Even if you heart condition does not meet one of the listings above, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your impairments have – or are expected to – put you out of work for one year or longer. The Social Security Administration will consider whether your conditions prevent you from returning to your past work or any other work available in the regional or national economy.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Adult Listings for cardiovascular impairments: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/4.00-Cardiovascular-Adult.htm 

Tips for heart health: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/prevention-15/heart-healthy/12-tips-for-better-heart-health ; https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-heart-tips ; https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/keep-your-heart-healthy ; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702 ; https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/10-small-steps-for-better-heart-health 

By: Thomas Klint of Premier Disability Services, LLC®