Sunday, October 14, 2007

Social Security Disability, Back Fusion and Pain

A recent article appearing in the Bismarck Tribune described the case of a gentleman who was suffering from severe chronic pain following the performance of a two level back fusion.

Unfortunately, this type of thing occurs more frequently than many candidates for back fusion might realize and it is for this reason that doctors will typically worn patients that a back fusion might improve their overall condition and alleviate their back pain, or may possibly make it worse. In this case, the individual suffered nerve damage as a result of the fusion procedure, causing ongoing and debilitating levels of pain.

Not surprising, of course, the person in the article was denied on a disability application. And then denied on the first appeal, the request for reconsideration.

Did he eventually win his case and receive disability benefits? Apparently, so. However, the process took approximately two years to get through, which is not unlike the total time required for many disability claimants in other parts of the country (this individual lives in North Dakota).

The lessons to be learned from this story? There are actually a couple. One is that, for the individual who has just applied for disability or who expects to apply soon, prepare to be denied. It is not written in stone, of course, that you will absolutely be denied. But since about 70 percent of all claims are turned down at the basic application level, you should consider the likelihood of this happening as a strong possibility. And doing so will allow you to be better prepared for a notice of denial, if you, in fact, receive one.

Second, if you do get turned down, appeal the disability denial. Many claimants who are denied at the initial claim level, and again at the reconsideration level (the first appeal), are later approved at the disability hearing level. This happens so frequently that members of congress have begun to comment on the reliability of a system that denies so many claims at the first two levels, yet approves them at a hearing before a judge (typically, where most claimants would be advised to have representation).

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog