Social Security Coverage for Spinal Stenosis

Social Security Covers Spinal Stenosis?

If you experience spinal stenosis and are unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly disability benefits for people who are no longer able to work due to a serious illness. The good news for you is spinal disorders are some of the most commonly approved conditions.

Medically Qualifying For Benefits

The SSA uses its own set of medical criteria (known as the Blue Book) when evaluating applicants and awarding disability benefits accordingly. To be approved for Social Security benefits, your spinal stenosis will need to have the same symptoms or test results as what’s outlined in the Blue Book.

Currently, there are three ways to qualify for Social Security disability with spinal stenosis:

  1. You have medical evidence showing nerve root compression with pain, limiting your range of motion. To qualify you’ll need to have severe sensory/reflex loss (such as the inability to catch a ball, type, or write), OR if the stenosis affects your lower spine, you cannot be able to lift your leg straight in front of you.
  2. You have medical evidence showing spinal arachnoiditis causing painful burning sensations, which require you to change your position or posture more than once every two hours.
  3. You have lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in an inability to “ambulate effectively.”

The SSA will approve your claim if you’re unable to perform any one of the following physical movements:Social Security for Spinal Stenosis

  • Standing from a seated position
  • Balancing while standing
  • Walking without the use of two crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair


The entire Blue Book can be found online, so you can review the musculoskeletal system listings with your doctor at your next appointment to determine if you may be eligible for Social Security benefits.

Qualifying Without the Blue Book

If you do not meet one of the three Blue Book listings for spinal stenosis, you may still be approved for disability benefits if you prove that you’re not able to earn more than $1,180 per month due to your spinal disorder. This is known as a Medical Vocational Allowance—it’s essentially the SSA’s way of approving claims that don’t meet a Blue Book listing based on an applicant’s work history.

Applicants who’ve had physically demanding jobs like cashiers, waitresses, or construction workers will have a much easier time qualifying for spinal stenosis without the Blue Book than those who have desk jobs. This is because the SSA will argue that sedentary work is less affected by a spinal disease than manual labor.

Starting Your Application

The easiest way to apply for Social Security benefits for spinal stenosis is online on the SSA’s website. If you’d rather have help with your claim, you can also call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to apply in person at your closest Social Security office. It should take three to five months to hear back from the SSA. Once approved, you can focus on your health and your family.

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