How to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits after a Spinal Cord Injury


Nearly 300,000 people in the US live with debilitating spinal cord injuries, and more than 12,000 per year suffer a spinal cord injury, usually as the result of an auto accident or some other type of accident. Anyone with a spinal cord injury can file a claim for Social Security disability benefits as long as the injury has lasted at least three months and is expected to make it impossible for you to work for at least 12 months. Disability benefits can be used to help pay for housing expenses and other costs so that you don’t have to worry about getting by while you cannot work.

Medically Qualifying for Disability Benefits Due to A Spinal Cord Injury

In order to get your claim for disability benefits approved because of a spinal cord injury you will need to meet the requirements listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. The Blue Book requirements for a spinal cord injury are very details. In order to qualify you must have a documented spinal cord injury that causes one of these three conditions:

  • Complete loss of function of any part of the body because of spinal cord injury, such as paralysis of an arm or leg. Paraplegic and quadriplegic people can automatically qualify for benefits under this part of the listing. But others can qualify under this part of the listing as well. Spinal cord injuries can paralyze other muscles and qualify for benefits because of that. For example, spinal cord injuries that cause paralysis in the stomach, intestines, or bladder.
  • Abnormal ability of movement in at least two extremities (either an arm and a leg or two arms or two legs) resulting in extreme difficulty in the ability to balance while standing or walking, to stand up from a seated position, or to use the arms and/or hands.
  • A significant physical spinal cord problem not quite severe enough to be extreme, combined with a serious limitation in any one of the following mental areas:
    • The ability to understand, remember, or use information.
    • Social interactions
    • The ability to concentrate or to work quickly.
    • The ability to take care of oneself or adapt to new changes.

You will have to submit medical evidence including a doctor’s diagnosis, scan and test results, and statements from caseworkers or other professionals that provide proof of your condition in order to have your claim approved.

Medical Vocational Allowance

You also might qualify for disability benefits under the Medical Vocational Allowance. If you don’t meet the criteria in the Blue Book listing but can’t work because of a spinal cord injury you can file a claim for disability benefits and ask for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. If the evaluation finds that there is no full-time work that you can do with your injury your claim for disability benefits can be approved even if you don’t meet the Blue Book listing requirements.

Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits

Applying online for Social Security disability benefits is a good option for most people but if you have questions about the application or need help filing because you want to ask for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation you can make an appointment at your local Social Security office to apply in person. If you apply in person don’t forget to bring copies of all of your medical documentation with you.



SSA’s Blue Book:

Medical Vocational Allowance:

Residual Functional Capacity:

Apply Online:

Local SSA Office: