Degenerative Disc Disease


Severe impairments related to issues with the spine, including the neck and back, are the most common disabling conditions for which Social Security awards disability benefits.

According to the Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2011, diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue attributed to 31.5% of the awarded distribution of Social Security Disability Benefits in 2011. This percentage is the highest, with mental disorders coming in second with 28.6%.

One of the most common disorders of the spine is degenerative disc disease (“DDD”), also referred to as spondylosis. Degenerative disc disease is a “spinal condition caused by the breakdown of your intervertebral discs.” (Mayfield Clinic of Cincinnati). The Mayfield Clinic further explains that this breakdown happens as you age, where the discs “degenerate” and in essence the discs in your back lose their flexibility and their ability to cushion your spine. The pressure this puts on your spine is what leads to the intense pain that many with DDD experience.

Social Security recognizes in its Listing of Impairments that:

“[D]isorders of the musculoskeletal system may result from hereditary, congenital, or acquired pathologic processes. Impairments may result from infectious, inflammatory, or degenerative processes, traumatic or developmental events, or neoplastic, vascular, or toxic/metabolic diseases.”

“[L]oss of function may be due to bone or joint deformity or destruction from any cause; miscellaneous disorders of the spine with or without radiculopathy or other neurological deficits; amputation; or fractures or soft tissue injuries, including burns, requiring prolonged periods of immobility or convalescence…”

(See 20 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, Part B, Section 1.00 Musculoskeletal System)

In addition to pain, a person’s range of motion may be limited by degenerative disc disease. This limited movement may greatly affect a person’s ability to function in a work environment. Categories that are typically needed in a work environment are described in Social Security’s Physical Residual Functioning Capacity Assessment Questionnaire (SSA-4734-BK). According to SSA-4734-BK, Social Security will look at how your DDD affects your movements such as the following:


  • – Lift
  • – Stand and/or walk
  • – Sit
  • – Push and pull
  • – Climb stairs or ramps
  • – Climb ladders
  • – Stoop
  • – Kneel
  • – Crouch
  • – Crawl

These limitations may have a significant impact on your ability to work. If you have questions regarding if your back issues will qualify you for disability benefits, please contact one of the attorneys at the Kasunic Law Firm. We have assisted hundreds of claimants with back issues through the Social Security Disability claims process.