Carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common and notoriously painful condition. According to data published by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), carpal tunnel syndrome affects millions of people nationwide. The severity of the injury can vary based on a number of different factors. In the worst circumstances, carpal tunnel can be wholly debilitating.
This raises an important question: Can you qualify for Social Security disability benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome? The short answer is ‘yes’—but carpal tunnel is not a listed impairment, meaning it can be difficult to qualify. In this article, you will find an overview of the most important things to know about carpal tunnel syndrome and Social Security disability benefits.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
As defined by the Mayo Clinic, carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful injury “caused by pressure on the median nerve.” This pressure can cause swelling, pain, and discomfort in the wrist and hands. With the most severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, people feel substantial numbness and tingling in their fingers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often called a “repetitive stress injury (RSI)” or “repetitive trauma injury (RTI)”. In general, it does not occur as the consequence of a specific accident. Instead, the onset tends to be more gradual. Workers who perform repetitive tasks—such as typing—are at the highest risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Social Security Disability: Carpal Tunnel is Not a Listed Impairment
The Social Security Administration publishes a document called the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. In more common parlance, you will generally hear this document referred to simply as the ‘Blue Book.’ The Social Security disability Blue Book is broken into two sections:
- Adult Listings (Part A); and
- Childhood Listings (Part B).
Within the Blue Book, there is a list of specific impairments that are covered by SSDI and SSI. If you have a listed impairment, it is generally easier to qualify for Social Security disability benefits—the reason being that the listed conditions are covered by the program.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is not a listed impairment in the Social Security disability Blue Book. In effect, this means that proving that you have carpal tunnel syndrome is not enough to qualify for SSDI benefits or SSI benefits. Not all people who have carpal tunnel syndrome will get benefits.
You May Still Qualify for SSDI or SSI Benefits By “Equaling” a Listed Impairment
Although carpal tunnel syndrome is not a listed impairment in the SSA’s Blue Book, that does not necessarily mean that you are out of luck when it comes to applying for Social Security disability benefits. As mentioned previously, carpal tunnel is a medical condition that varies dramatically from person-to-person. It has the potential to be debilitating and disabling in its most severe forms. In other words, carpal tunnel syndrome could prevent you from working on a full-time basis and it could make it necessary to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
You may qualify for SSDI benefits or SSI benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome if you are able to “equal” another listing. Simply put, this means that you will have to prove that your condition is as severe and as disabling as a listed condition. Carpal tunnel syndrome is frequently associated with nerve damage. In the SSA’s Blue Book, there is a condition listed that is called peripheral neuropathy. Although the standards are relatively challenging to meet, some people with severe carpal tunnel can qualify for benefits by equaling the listing of peripheral neuropathy.
Know the Importance of a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Assessment
Social Security disability benefits are designed for people who cannot work due to an injury, illness, or other medical impairment. If you are applying for SSDI benefits because of carpal tunnel syndrome, you will need to complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. In effect, an RFC is a medical assessment to determine what you can (and cannot) do based on your injury. The greater the severity of impairment as stated in the RFC, the greater the likelihood that you will be approved for Social Security disability benefits.
Get Help From an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney
Social Security disability claims are notoriously complex—especially people dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome and similar medical conditions. You do not have to go through the claims process alone. If you want to file for Social Security disability benefits, a skilled Social Security disability lawyer will protect your rights and help you maximize your compensation.