The body naturally breaks down with age. One consequence may be degenerative disc disease. If you have neck and back pain, degenerative disc disease may be the cause. Although many people have this disease, the nature and severity of symptoms varies. Often, benefits for degenerative disc disease disability are denied due to lack of objective evidence that corresponds with subjective claims of disabling pain. If pain and stiffness from degenerative disc disease makes your job impossible, seek help from an experienced ERISA attorney. Your odds of a successful claim for disability benefits will increase if you work with an attorney who understands what evidence is required to support your claim, as defined by your disability policy.
What Is Degenerative Disc Disease Disability?
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is actually not a disease but a term used to describe the natural changes in your spinal discs as you age. Spinal discs are soft, compressible discs that separate the interlocking vertebrae that make up the spine. These discs act as a shock absorber for the spine, allowing your spine to flex, bend and twist. Over time, discs lose their water content, decreasing their height and bringing the vertebrae closer together. As a result, the nerve openings in your spine become narrower. The discs no longer absorb shock as well, particularly when you are walking, running, or jumping. The disc can also weaken from wear and tear, poor posture, and incorrect body movements.
For most people, DDD is part of the natural process of growing older. However, for some, DDD may result from a neck or back injury.
DDD can take place throughout the spine, but often occurs in the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region). Common symptoms include:
- Chronic back and neck pain that may increase in severity depending on your position (prolonged sitting and standing) and activity (bending, lifting, twisting).
- Limitations in your range of motion.
- Osteoarthritis – breakdown of the cartilage that protects and cushions your joints.
- Herniated disc – an abnormal bulge or breaking open of your spinal disc
- Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal, which is the open space in the spine that holds the spinal cord.
Proving Degenerative Disc Disease Disability
Since DDD varies in severity, filing a successful claim for disability benefits requires proper medical and vocational documentation showing that your condition has progressed to the point you are unable to continue your job and, if required by your policy, perform another position. Some items a knowledgeable ERISA lawyer would include in the package of information going to the insurer in support of your claim are:
- Medical records – consisting of radiological findings; physical examination results showing restrictions in your range of motion, including lifting, bending, twisting, walking, standing, sitting, and repetitive motions; treatment notes; medical history and consistent reports of pain and limitations.
- Functional capacity evaluation – could prove you are unable to stand, sit, or walk for extended period of time, or to perform other physical requirements demanded of your job.
- Doctor’s narrative – details your medical history, treatment, test results, your doctor’s findings, diagnosis, prognosis, recommended treatment, and why your doctor believes you cannot work.
- Vocational expert’s evaluation – why you cannot perform your duties at your job or any other you are qualified for.
- Diary – self-daily record of your pain, restrictions and limitations.
- Co-worker statements – their observations of your struggles and declining work productivity.
Seek a Skilled ERISA Attorney
Don’t wait to contact legal counsel to assist you with your disability claim. It’s important to submit the strongest possible evidence from the start. If your claim is denied, your appeal is usually limited to the documents you previously provided. Get it right the first time by contacting Jonathan M. Feigenbaum, Esq., a ERISA attorney, at (617) 357-9700 or toll free (866) 396-9722.