Qualifying for Disability


How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits with Syringomyelia

Syringomyelia is a condition in which the individual develops a fluid-filled cyst on the spinal cord. The cyst, also called a syrinx, enlarges. As it grows, it will cause damage to the spinal cord. It can cause a variety of symptoms, such as pain, stiffness, and weakness. There aren’t any causes specifically attributed to syringomyelia, but most often it caused by a malformation that causes brain tissue to protrude down into the spinal canal. It can also be the result of inflammation around the spinal cord, a spinal cord injury, and tumors either near or on the spinal cord. Some cases are mild and cause minimal symptoms, but other cases have severe symptoms, which may require surgical intervention.

The condition may develop slowly, especially when it was caused by an accident. Symptoms can include bowel functioning problems, bladder issues, muscle spasms, facial pain and numbness, curvature of the spine, and pain of the neck, arms, and back. It can lead to motor difficulties and chronic pain that make performing daily tasks difficult – or even impossible. Usually, an MRI is required to confirm the diagnosis. When surgery is needed, it is done to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. If you are unable to work because of the condition, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Meeting The Medical Criteria

The SSA uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book. This book has sections for different systems of the body. Under each section there are many listings for disabling conditions. Each condition has specific criteria that must be met for a claimant to qualify for disability benefits. Section 11.00 of the Blue Book refers to neurological disorders and Listing 11.19 of the Blue Book is used for syringomyelia claims. To be approved with this listing, you must meet at least one of these criteria:

  • A diagnosis of syringomyelia with the loss of motor function in two or more extremities.
  • Diagnosis of syringomyelia with significant signs of bulbar, which is a bulbous mass of tissue, which is the fluid-filled cyst in this case

You will need to provide supporting medical documentation to have your claim approved.

Using A Medical Vocational Allowance

If you cannot be approved using the Blue Book, you can still be approved with a medical vocational allowance. This approach uses your medical conditions, symptoms, side effects, treatment plans, age, educational background, work history, and transferable skills to determine if you are capable of working. A residual functional capacity (RFC) is filled out to indicate what you can do and to what extent.

Applying For Disability Benefits

You can start the application process online at www.ssa.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213 and speaking with a representative. You can then start the process over the phone or schedule an appointment at one of the 1,300 field offices of the SSA located across the country. Remember, documentation and hard medical evidence are needed for a successful disability claim.

Additional Reading:


More on SSDI


Medical Vocational Allowance


SSA Field Offices


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