Neck Impairment and Disability

Neck Impairment and Disability

A neck condition can lead to serious disability. The neck contains several nerves, including the spinal cord which is necessary for brain function as well as nerves that directly involve function in your hands and arms. The neck supports the head and movement.

Many individuals, through time or injury, or perhaps a bit of both, develop severe conditions in the neck, otherwise known as the cervical spine. Individuals may suffer from degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, which occurs usually through aging. Degenerative disc disease can be enhanced by years of hard work, though some office workers develop this condition as well. An individual can also injure the neck in an injury, such as a motor vehicle accident or a fall.

Neck conditions include cervical disc herniations, spinal stenosis, spinal fractures, osteophyte complexes, spondylosis, and cervical radiculopathy. Neck conditions can cause a variety of symptoms, including painful movement of the neck, pins and needles to the hands and arms, shooting pain down the arms (also called radiculopathy or radiculitis), and in severe cases of spinal cord impingement, spasms throughout the body and even paralysis.

What evidence does SSA look at for a neck condition?

neck injury doctorThe most important evidence SSA looks at is “objective” evidence to determine the severity of the neck condition. This can include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, myelograms, EMG/NCV’s, and other forms of testing. An MRI of the cervical spine that confirms nerve-root or spinal-cord impingement is helpful in establishing the severity of your condition. EMGs, which are sometimes not reliable, can confirm radiculopathy. X-rays only show bony abnormalities and are many times less helpful in establishing severity. The closer the objective testing is to your alleged onset date, or the date you become disabled, the more helpful it is to your case. Testing performed years prior to when you stopped working is less helpful in proving your current condition.

Social Security will also look at “clinical” findings from your doctor. This includes findings such as your range of motion, the strength in your arms, your reflexes in your arms, and many other findings. If you case goes to a hearing, the judge will carefully review the medical findings in your doctor’s case.

Social Security will also look at your treatment history. If you have had surgery after you stopped working, or shortly before the date you stopped working, it is important to get the operative report and the records from your surgeon to Social Security. Individuals with neck injuries can also be treated with physical therapy, pain management, and injections.

If you are not a surgical candidate, it is important to inquire as to why that is the case. Many judges will infer, many times incorrectly, that your condition is not severe because no surgery has been recommended. Many judges make this inference despite there being no medical evidence to support it. Many individuals are not provided surgery because the extent of the degeneration in the neck makes it not likely the surgery will help. Perhaps you have another medical condition, such as diabetes or a psychological condition, that makes surgery dangerous. If you had a surgical referral and the doctor concluded that you do not need surgery, it is important that you know why.

I have been denied disability but I cannot work. What do I need to prove that I am disabled?

You can have such a severe impairment to meet a “listing” for your neck complaint, which are requirements by the Social Security Administration that mean you are essentially automatically disabled. The 1.00 listings have recently been revised by Social Security and it is now very difficult to prove. More than likely, you will need to prove your disability by showing you cannot sustain work.

For individuals under 50, you need to prove that you are unable to perform sedentary work, or desk work. Usually, individuals with neck conditions have significant limitations in sitting, standing, and walking. Furthermore, many individuals with neck conditions have difficulty with their hands due to radiculopathy. The Social Security Administration has stated in SSR 96-9p that most unskilled sedentary jobs require good use of both hands. You may also prove that you are in such significant pain that you are unable to work on a full-time basis. If you are able to convince a judge that you are unable to perform sedentary work on a full-time basis, you will likely be approved.

If you are between the age of 50-54, you may be able to qualify even if limited to sedentary work. If you are 55-59, you may be able to qualify even if limited to light work. This is because individuals can be disabled under the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, or “Grid Rules,” under certain circumstances. A skilled Social Security Disability attorney will check to see if these rules apply to your case.


The Law Office of Brad Thomas has experience in winning cases in front of the Social Security Administration for individuals with severe neck injuries. We will obtain all of your medical records and prepare you for your proceeding. Call us today!