Scoliosis may cause severe symptoms such as widespread pain and difficulty with movement and breathing. When these symptoms prevent someone from working, scoliosis can meet the requirements to qualify as a disability with many agencies and organizations.
Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve abnormally. Although some people with scoliosis have only mild symptoms and are able to work, others have severe symptoms such as pain, inability to walk unassisted, and difficulty breathing. When the symptoms of scoliosis are this severe, an individual may qualify for disability benefits and programs.
The exact definition of a disability depends on the organization or agency you are seeking services from. Different states, programs, and agencies have their own regulations and requirements. Often, when people think of a legal disability, they are using the definition from the SSA.
The SSA defines a disability as a condition that is expected to last either for at least 12 months or until your death, and that prevents you from working. Typically, if a condition meets the SSA requirements, it will meet the requirements for other services and benefits, but this is not guaranteed.
Scoliosis isn’t always considered a disability. Some people have mild scoliosis that doesn’t cause disabling symptoms. For other people, the effects of scoliosis are severe enough that it can be classified as a disability.
Scoliosis isn’t listed on its own in the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) Disability program’s Blue Book – a listing of all the conditions and diagnoses that qualify for Social Security disability that is now accessed online. However, that doesn’t mean it’s never a disability. People with scoliosis might qualify for SSA disability under the Blue Book listings for broader conditions, such as:
- 1.00 Musculoskeletal Disorders
- 1.04 Disorders of the Spine
- The medical-vocational allowance
To qualify under one of these categories, you’ll need to have a doctor certify that your scoliosis is severe and that it prevents you from working. SSA will need to see proof that your scoliosis causes complications and symptoms, such as:
If you have scoliosis, there are many organizations that can help you determine if you qualify for disability benefits. You may qualify for benefits from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal, state, and local agencies.
These organizations can help you understand your rights and apply for benefits:
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): This agency is responsible for enforcing federal laws that protect you from discrimination at work based on many factors, including having a disability.
- United States Social Security Administration (SSA): This agency will determine if you qualify for federal disability benefits.
- USA.gov: This federal website helps you identify federal resources available to you and where to find them.
- HealthCare.gov: This website helps you find information about and apply for healthcare coverage.
- Medicaid.gov: A federal program that provides resources and health coverage for individuals with disabilities; it’s administered by each state.
- Medicare.gov: This is the federal government’s official website for information about Medicare, including plans for younger people with qualifying disabilities and how to apply.
- The Center for Medicare Advocacy: This nonprofit advocacy group works to help older adults and those with disabilities understand their rights and secure Medicare coverage if eligible.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: This federal agency has compiled a list of agencies whose mission is to help individuals get the benefits they need.
Will I need copies of my medical records to get disability benefits?
Yes. You will need proof that your scoliosis symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working. You will need to provide detailed medical records during the application process.
Do I need a lawyer to get disability benefits?
You do not need a lawyer to get benefits; however, having a representative, such as a lawyer or a certified disability advocate, representing you may help you, depending on your condition and the benefits you need. A 2017 report from the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office found that individuals who had representation at disability hearings were almost three times more likely to receive benefits than those who did not.
Your local Social Security office will have a list of legal referral services and non-profit organizations that may be able to help you.
How long will it take for me to qualify for disability benefits?
According to SSA, on average, it takes 3 to 5 months to get an initial decision from SSA regarding disability benefits. Appeals for denials must be filed within 60 days, and the amount of time an individual appeal may take can vary depending on how complex the appeal is.
Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve abnormally. Sometimes, this condition is mild and easy to manage. However, it can sometimes cause severe pain and difficulty with walking and breathing. If these symptoms prevent you from working, it’s possible that your scoliosis could be considered a disability by the SSA and other agencies.
Your doctor and other medical providers might be able to help you determine if your scoliosis symptoms are likely to qualify for disability benefits and programs.