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Does SSA Qualify Spinal Cord Injury as a Disability?

Living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) can be a life-altering experience, significantly altering physical mobility and impacting daily activities and work performance. If you have been unable to work full-time for at least 12 months, you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration recognizes two ways to be found disabled due to a SCI: you can either meet or equal a listed impairment (“medically disabled”) or be unable to perform any type of job (“vocationally disabled”).

How Do I Get Approved for Benefits with Spinal Cord Injury?

Spinal cord injuries have been listed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as one of its severe impairments that would automatically qualify for disability benefits. To meet or equal Listing 11.08, applicants must provide documentation that demonstrates complete loss of function of any part of the body due to a spinal cord injury, such as paralysis; extreme but not total loss of function in two extremities to the point where they can’t stand, walk or handle objects without help; or difficulty standing up, walking and holding objects while struggling with mental functions like remembering instructions and concentrating on tasks—all for at least three months after their SCI diagnosis.

Alternatively, applicants can qualify under Listing 1.15 if they have symptoms of pain, tingling or muscle fatigue in the affected area; evidence from tests or examinations like a nerve conduction study showing weakness, irritation or decreased reflexes; objective imaging scans like MRIs or CT scans that demonstrate nerve compromise; and proof that they can’t use both hands independently.