Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Qualify You for Social Security Disability?

Written by John Horn. Posted in Blogs

carpal tunnel diagramDo you feel a strange tingling or pins and needles sensation in your fingers? Does pain in your hand, arm or shoulder wake you up in the middle of the night? Have you noticed that your grip is weaker than it used to be or that your hands feel swollen even if they haven’t actually grown in size? If you experience any of these conditions, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

CTS typically starts out with mildly unpleasant symptoms but can worsen into debilitating pain that makes work difficult, if not impossible. If your CTS symptoms are severe enough to be considered a disability, you may be able to get Social Security Disability benefits.

However, be warned that having carpal tunnel syndrome does not automatically qualify you for benefits, no matter how severe your condition is. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not list CTS as a qualifying disability in the Blue Book and generally does not consider CTS severe enough to merit receiving benefits. That said, you may be able to receive benefits if you can meet the following conditions.

Your Carpal Tunnel Can Be a Symptom of a More Serious Condition

Because carpal tunnel is so well-known, many people blame it for their wrist pain, when in reality, wrist pain could be a symptom of many other conditions. These are just a few of the conditions that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Arthritis
  • Focal dystonia
  • Neuropathy
  • Cervical radiculopathy
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Kidney failure

Most of these conditions have impairment listings in the SSA’s Blue Book. Before filing for Social Security Disability, you should have your doctor rule out other causes of your symptoms. If your wrist and hand pain are symptoms of a condition that is listed by the SSA, you have a much better chance of receiving benefits.

You Meet the Requirements of an Impairment Listing

While carpal tunnel syndrome is not listed as an impairment, you may still be able to meet the impairment listing requirements set by the SSA.

One way you may be able to qualify is if your symptoms are medically equal to the symptoms of another condition that is listed.

Another way you may qualify is if you have multiple impairments, none of which have disability listings. The SSA may find that the combination of your impairments is enough to merit Social Security Disability benefits.

You Are Unable to Work at All

Lastly, you may be able to get SSD benefits if your carpal tunnel syndrome keeps you from being able to work for a year or more. However, it is very unlikely that carpal tunnel syndrome on its own will keep you from working any job.

However, if your condition is very severe to the point that it affects your ability to concentrate or perform light work, you may qualify for benefits. In some cases, the SSA grants benefits to those who are unable to perform sedentary work through a medical-vocational allowance.

For example, one woman was able to receive benefits for CTS because her grip strength and pain was so severe that she was unable to type, file or perform basic housework like cooking and sewing.

Proving that you are unable to work is typically easier for older, sedentary individuals who may be unable to get a job in another line of work due to their age or lack of education and skills. Please also note that having an EMG or a nerve conduction study in your records noting the severity of your CTS will greatly help your claim.

Contact a Lawyer for Assistance

When filing for Social Security Disability benefits, it’s smart to go through the process with a lawyer at your side. Horn and Kelley, P.C. Attorneys at Law specialize in helping people like you win disability cases. Call us to schedule your free consultation today.


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