Is Scoliosis a Disability? SSDI and ADA Eligibility Requirements

Does scoliosis qualify for disability?

Scoliosis can be a disability that may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if the applicant is able to prove that the condition is severe enough to affect the ability to work.

SSDI benefits for scoliosis

How much money you can receive from SSDI depends on your work history and how much you’ve paid in Social Security taxes. The average monthly disability check was $1,486.89 per month as of September 2023. The maximum SSDI benefit is $3,627 per month in 2023 and $3,822 per month in 2024.

“The benefits begin a full five months after you stopped being able to work, but they only reach back 12 months before the month you applied for benefits,” said Christine Burnside, an attorney and board-certified specialist in Social Security disability law at Deuterman Law Group in Greensboro, North Carolina. Burnside recommends applying for SSDI as soon as you realize you won’t be able to return to work.


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What types of scoliosis qualify for disability for SSDI?

Scoliosis can be a disabling medical condition, but the diagnosis alone usually isn’t enough to qualify for disability benefits.” You have to prove that you are unable to work for at least 12 months as a result of your disabling condition,” Burnside said.

Scoliosis isn’t explicitly on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments (known as the “Blue Book”), noted Mark Malak, an attorney at Berger and Green, P.C. in Pittsburgh, but the condition may cause or contribute to other spinal impairments that are on the list.

“If scoliosis is causing significant pain, difficulty walking, standing or sitting, or required surgery, then there would likely be evidence about this condition’s impact in your ability to be a consistent employee,” Burnside said.

Work accommodations for scoliosis

The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy doesn’t specifically mention scoliosis in its list of disabilities that entitle workers to workplace accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

However, people with scoliosis might use information from the back impairments section of its Job Accommodation Network list to understand their rights, said Maggie Sims, project manager with the Rocky Mountain ADA Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“Any other substantial limitation associated with scoliosis could also be considered as well,” Sims said. “For example, if a person with scoliosis experiences extreme fatigue because of the impairment, the employee has the right to request accommodations related to fatigue. As with any accommodation request, the employee and employer should engage in an interactive process to determine what the limitations are, and how it affects the job performance.”

Accommodations for people who have trouble carrying objects or experience decreased stamina due to their condition might include things such as:

Applicants can apply for SSDI on the Social Security website, or they can call and make an appointment at their local office to apply in person.

After receiving the application, the SSA will follow up with additional forms in the mail. One will ask for a description of the jobs you’ve held in the past 15 years; another will ask about the things you can and cannot do on a typical day, Burnside said.

“SSA will also request your medical records, and they’ll consider whether or not you can return to any job you have had in the past 15 years, or if you could do other work that exists in the United States despite the limitations from your medical conditions,” Burnside said.

How likely is it that the SSA will approve my SSDI application?

In 2022, the Social Security Administration approved 38% of initial SSDI applications.

SSDI approval depends on your medical records and how much your symptoms affect your daily life, Burnside said. “There is a long backlog of cases at the initial and reconsideration stages so it can, unfortunately, take many months to get a decision.”

To help improve your odds of getting an application accepted, consider the following:

  1. Consult with your doctor. This can help you understand how the frequency and severity of your symptoms of scoliosis affect your day more specifically, Burnside says. “Being clear about the level of your pain is not complaining,” she added. “It’s also important that your medical provider understands how your condition affects you so they can best treat you.” Be sure to talk to all of your doctors about your symptoms, and include all of your medical providers on your application for SSDI benefits, she said. Hiring a disability attorney can also help, Malak said.

  2. Keep a log or journal of your symptoms. Burnside recommends bringing one to medical appointments to record how your disability is progressing.

  3. Be broad in your overview. The SSA considers you as a whole person. “That means they have to consider how all of your medical conditions affect you and your ability to work,” Burnside said. “You may have a condition that causes you the most distress, like scoliosis, but you may also suffer from anxiety or depression, as well. You cannot leave symptoms from anxiety at home when you try to go to work, so the SSA will consider how the combination of your symptoms affect you.” 

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