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Navigating Social Security Benefits for Lumbar Nerve Root Compression

What is Lumbar Nerve Root Compression and How it Impacts the Body?

The spinal nerve roots play a major role in the normal functioning of the body. Their primary function is to carry signals from the brain to the spinal cord. While cervical nerve roots cater to the cervical spine and upper areas of the body the lumbar Nerve Roots ensure smooth functioning of the lower half of the body. As long as these nerve roots are healthy we do not think much of it. However, any damage to these messengers can be quite debilitating.[1, 2]

Any type of Nerve Root Compression significantly limits the overall functional capacity of the person. Ranging from severe pain to problems with carrying out daily activities and sitting or standing for long periods resulting in prolonged leave of absence are some of the problems that people with Nerve Root Compression have to face on a daily basis.[1, 2, 3]

Lumbar Nerve Root Compression results when the nerve root gets compromised or compressed. This can happen due to various factors like sporting injuries, repetitive bending and heavy lifting, other medical conditions like a herniated lumbar disc, or even a spinal tumor also causes the nerve root to become compressed.[1, 2]

As a result of a reduced capacity to carry out their line of work efficiently many people apply for Social Security Disability due to a Lumbar Nerve Root Compression.[2, 3, 4] 

However, actually getting SSI benefits due to this condition is quite a complicated issue as has been explained in detail below in the article.

Navigating Social Security Benefits for Lumbar Nerve Root Compression

Getting SSI benefits for Lumbar Nerve Root Compression is not that easy as is the case with some of the other medical conditions. The primary reason behind this is that most people become well enough to get back to normal work with just pain medications, exercises, and some physical therapy even though some may require surgery for it.

Navigating Social Security Benefits for Lumbar Nerve Root Compression

Moreover, the most common condition resulting from Lumbar Nerve Root Compression is Sciatica that causes pain from the low back down the hip into the thighs which is a treatable condition.[2, 3, 4]

According to Morgan & Weisbrod, a major law firm in Dallas, specializing in Social Security Disability Law while it is very tough to get SSI benefits from Lumbar Nerve Root Compression it is not something that cannot be done. They make a mention that while this is a treatable condition there are many people who do not recover completely despite exhaustive treatments including surgery to release the compressed nerve.[3]

Instead such people end up with permanent damage to the nerves resulting in incontinence and sometimes ever complete loss of movement of the lower limbs. For such people Social Security remains the only viable option and there are bright chances that they qualify for SSI benefits.[3]

One of the Law Group from Virginia is also of a similar opinion and mention a five step process that the Social Security Administration uses to decide whether a person can qualify for SSI benefits for Lumbar Nerve Root Compression. These steps include:[4]

  1. Are You Gainfully Employed Currently?

    The SSA will first check whether you are currently able to work or not and if working what is your Substantial Gainful Activity or SGA.[4, 5] The term SGA describes the current level of activity and earnings. It is a variable entity and changes year to year. For the year 2023, the SGA for non-blind individuals is $2460 and for non-blind individuals is $1470.[5]

    The SGA plays a significant role in deciding whether a person qualifies for SSI benefits or not. If a person is not able to earn the amount qualifying for SGA then the chances of getting SSI benefits becomes that much brighter.[4, 5]

  2. The Severity of the Condition

    As the next step, the SSA then analyzes the severity of the condition, in this case Lumbar Nerve Root Compression. For this, the SSA goes through the entire set of medical documents that are presented which includes Medical Records right from the time of diagnosis, the radiological evidence corroborating the diagnosis, and the severity of the symptoms.[4]

    An opinion with an expert is also taken for further decision making. The SSA will also carefully look into the activities that the claimant can or cannot do and whether an alternative option for earning or vocational rehabilitation can be helpful. To qualify for disability, there should be corroborative evidence that the claimant has been in no position to work under any capacity for a minimum of a year.[4]

  3. Does the Medical Condition Qualify in the Listing?

    This is perhaps the most defining aspect of whether a claimant gets SSI benefits or not, especially in cases of Lumbar Nerve Root Impingement. The Social Security Administration has a predefined list of medical condition that by default qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits.[4]

    Fortunately, this list has Nerve Root Compression as one of the medical conditions qualifying for SSI benefits if it is severe enough such that the claimant is not able to work under any capacity for a prolonged period of time despite extensive treatments. In some cases if the SSA feels that the symptoms are not severe enough they may opt for an RFC or Residual Functional Capacity to see if the claimant is fit to do some other kind of job that may not exacerbate the symptoms and the claimant can be gainfully employed.[4]

  4. Is the Claimant in a Position To Continue Any Previous Work?

    The SSA then analyzes the records thoroughly and checks whether the claimant might be in a position to do any of the jobs that he or she might have done over the last 15 years. Some of these jobs may not be so demanding to impact the physical wellbeing of the claimant. [4] If the SSA feels that the claimant cannot be gainfully employed in any previous level of work then the claimant may be considered as disabled.[4]

    However, this is an exhaustive process and requires plenty of material evidence in the form of radiographic studies, electrodiagnostic testing, symptom questionnaires, review summaries, any surgical reports if present, and the overall opinion of the treating physician as to the claimant’s ability to be employed under any capacity.[4] In cases of Lumbar Nerve Root Compression, the opinions of neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialists are of topmost priority.[4]

  5. Is The Claimant Capable Of Doing Some Other Work?

    Finally, when the SSA is assured that the claimant is not capable of handling the current employment and is not capable of doing any work that he or she previously used to do, it looks at options for any future work possibility for the claimant.[4] Based on the current medical condition, functional capacity, skill levels, and overall education the SSA will try to identify alternatives.

    If the SSA finds that the claimant cannot be employed in any other capacity then the claimant becomes eligible for Social Security Benefits. However, for people above the age of 50, there are special rules which may find the claimant disabled even if SSA feels that he or she may be employed in some other capacity.[4]


Getting SSI benefits for Lumbar Nerve Root Impingement is definitely an arduous task but it is not something that is not achievable. Statistics mention that approximately 70% of all claims for disability for Lumbar Nerve Root Compression are declined by SSA. It can be on grounds of inadequate paperwork, lack of medical records, previous work history, and even improper presentation of the case.[2] However, with the help of an experienced disability attorney one can improve their chances of winning SSD benefits for Lumbar Nerve Root Compression.[2]


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 24, 2023

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