Disability benefits are available for people with certain types of disabling back pain and their dependents. To qualify, you’ll need supporting evidence like medical records and test results.

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If you have disabling back pain that stops you from working or participating in everyday activities, you may qualify for disability benefits.

You must receive a diagnosis for your back pain that meets specific criteria before you become eligible for benefits. Your work history and armed services history also affect eligibility.

In this article, we’ll explain what disability benefits are and the difference between long- and short-term benefits. We’ll also go into detail about the types of back pain that may make you eligible for disability.

Disability benefits are a form of monetary compensation. You may be eligible for disability benefits if you’re injured, ill, or unable to work due to mental or physical impairments.

Multiple federal agencies provide disability benefits to eligible individuals and, in some instances, their spouses and dependents. And you may be eligible to receive compensation from more than one program at the same time.

Programs that provide disability benefits include:

  • Social Security: The Social Security Administration offers two disability programs:
    • Disability Insurance (SSDI): SSDI provides benefits for people with a qualifying disability and a qualifying work history. Benefits may also be available to their spouses.
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI provides benefits for individuals or families with limited income and resources.
  • Veterans (VA) disability compensation: The VA offers monthly compensation to veterans who are unable to work because they got sick or injured during their service. Veterans who have physical or mental health conditions that developed before or after their service may also qualify. Compensation may also be provided to spouses and dependents.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance: Worker’s comp benefits are paid by your employer if you get sick or injured on the job or as a result of your job (such as repetitive motion).
  • Private disability insurance: Your employer may offer short- or long-term disability insurance as part of your benefits package. You typically pay for this or share the cost with your employer. Private disability insurance covers you for illnesses or accidents unrelated to your employment.

Disability benefits are available to people with qualifying disabilities, including those related to back pain. To be eligible, you’ll have to provide evidence of your diagnosis and information about how your diagnosis prevents you from working.

Decisions are made based on medical information. Personal statements about your pain level and symptoms will not be enough to justify your need for benefits.

To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must meet their definition of disability, as defined by the Social Security Act. The Act states:

“A person is disabled under the Act if they can’t work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or result in death. The person’s medical condition(s) must prevent them from doing work that they did in the past, and it must prevent them from adjusting to other work.”

Many conditions cause back pain, and that pain can range from mild to severe. A healthcare professional can work with you to determine whether your symptoms might qualify you for disability compensation.

No matter your diagnosis, your healthcare professional will have to provide evidence that it causes severe functional impairment, such as:

  • loss of motor function, such as an inability to stand, walk, or use your arms and hands
  • severe or chronic pain originating from nerve root or lumbar spine compression
  • limited spinal movement
  • muscle weakness
  • numbness or loss of tactile sensation
  • loss of bodily reflexes

Conditions causing back pain that may qualify you for benefits include (but are not limited to):

The Social Security Administration and other agencies require documentation from an objective and qualified medical professional, usually a medical doctor. Your doctor must provide supporting evidence like imaging tests, blood work, and other information used to diagnose and assess your condition.

Other information you might need to apply for benefits includes:

  • medical records from any doctors, hospitals, therapists, or caseworkers you’ve seen about your condition
  • names and contact information for healthcare professionals you’ve worked with and a history of your appointment dates
  • a social security number and other proof of identity
  • a summary of your work history and the type of work you performed
  • a W2 from your last job or a copy of a recent federal tax return
  • information on marriages, divorces, and dependent family members

On average, SSDI provides around $1,236 monthly to beneficiaries, although your work history and the amount of Social Security taxes you’ve paid may make you eligible for more. Your dependents may also receive additional compensation. Benefits to SSI beneficiaries vary based on financial need.

The monetary value of VA benefits can depend on the severity of your disability and your need. This amount ranges from $165–$3,621.95 per month. Additional compensation may be provided to your dependents.

Short-term private insurance and worker’s compensation claims are based on current or recent salary. For example, you may get 50% of your average weekly wage over the last two months. A cap on the amount you receive each week may apply.

Disability benefits may also entitle you to free or low cost health insurance through Medicaid or Medicare. Other benefits may include SNAP benefits that help you pay for food or transportation services to medical appointments.

If you have a condition that causes severe back pain that impairs your ability to function, you may be eligible for disability benefits through various programs.

To be eligible, you’ll need proof that you’ve been diagnosed with a condition that causes severe symptoms and significant functional limitations.