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Disability Retirement with Spinal Stenosis

JTEX53JJTEX53 Posts: 27
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Spinal Stenosis
Over the last 5-6 years my Degenerative Spinal Stenosis has became much worse. At 57, I imagine I'm in the prime target group of "Baby Boomers" with this type of condition as the body is getting old. I'm a high school teacher, I was wondering if anyone has tried for a disability retirement other than SSI/SSD. My conditions is Degenerative and not caused from an accident. In '07-'08 it started in my right upper back near my right shoulder blade. The epidural only lasted about a year, since then my lower back has started hurting severely and the MRI has showed some serious problems from L5-S1. I just can do all the things a high school teacher needs to do any longer as part of there job.

Please let me know of your attempts to get a disability retirement and if you have the documentation, MRI's and doctors diagnosis, do you have to be an absolute cripple to get a disabilty retirement. Can't live on Vicodins forever. If I just take it easy physically, I do pretty good but I don't have the luxury of going to lie down when my back starts hurting. The more walking, the sooner the pain starts and the same sitting for sevral hours working at the computer. I can deal with epidurals but surgery is something that will be a last resort. I just want out of the classroom but I don't know if I could do many jobs without standing for long periods or sitting at a computer for long periods.


  • JOhn if I remember correctly from your other post you are just beginning to get back to doctors. You were looking for info on an MRI you just had done. Right now you need to focus on finding out what is wrong and what can be done to help resolve the pain.

    No one here can tell you if you qualify for disability retirement. That is a question for your doctor. But it does seem to me that you are looking to get out of your job.
  • HI John :)

    You need to first get all the tests and a solid diagnosis and some treatment options before you should even try for any type of disability.
    If you jump into applying for it before trying different treatments I am sure you will be flat out denied :(

    If you have all this and I am misunderstanding you, I apologize...
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
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  • What is disability retirement? Is that something offered by your employer?

    You might ask your human resources dept. about the requirements, but I know that for SSDI the requirements are pretty stringent (you have to have significant problems with basic functions such as sitting, standing, bending, twisting, and have exhausted most treatment modalities).

    Certainly if meds provide relief then I think you're out of luck (as indeed, as many of us can attest, you can stay on meds for the rest of your life!)

  • I retired under "Federal Disability Retirement" from my federal government job. It all depends on the "company" you are with as to what their requirements are to retire in this fashion. In federal government you have to become such that you can no longer do essential elements of the job you were hired for, they can't accommodate you, they can't move you to another position of similar and same pay *and* medically it has to be proven that you are indeed disabled. My SSD is internal to this retirement.

    As was already said, you can't really start that road until you get fully examined by your doctors and they agree that nothing can be done to 'make you whole' again or functional. Have you talked with your HR department to see if there is another position within the school system you can be moved to, and too you can do? Under the ADA, that is one of the steps, accommodation. If it is reasonable, most would try to work with you.

    So I guess we are saying is "Don't put the cart before the horse." Get with your doctors so they can have you undergo testing as they deem and see where you are at. I too get the impression that you also do not like your job, and that is adding to your pain, and as such you want out. Most of us didn't want to leave (me), but the spine and its affects had its own decision in that matter! Please keep us posted. *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I'm a high school teacher in Texas. If granted it would be through Texas Teacher Retirement System. The board consists of 3 doctors. If 2 of the three doctors agree with your specialist(Orthopedist)diagnosis. It is granted on 2.3% of your 3 highest average yearly salaries, time the # of years in TRS. It's not that I would be making out big time since I didn't start teaching until I was 41 and I'm now 57. It would only be about $18,000 per/year but better than SSI and then I could apply for medicaid, since I would be making too much to qualify for SSI or SSD but I'm not going to count my chickens before they hatch. It's just I'm not physically up to what it takes to do my teaching job. No 8:00 am-3:30pm job more like 6:30m-4:30pm and most of the time longer. I haven't been the same mentally sharp, since I had a series of mini-strokes in 2009 and another just in September. If I'm not on my feet for 4-5 hours and sitting at a computer. I wouldn't need Vicodins to make it through the day. I do have to say, teaching high schools really does suck, you'd have to experience it to believe it and 16 years and being in pain and dealing with kids that parents do a lousy job raising their kids, is not a good mix for a teacher in extreme pain and a short fuse!!! I do want out big time, if I can do it 4 years earlier, so much the better.
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  • Yes, I have been being seen by several Orthopedist for the last 12 years. It's just been the last five years, that things have progessively worsened from just a mild stenosis problem with my C7 vertabra, the epidural lasted about a year. The last series of MRI's a month ago showed some pretty severe problems from L5-S1. With the systems that are in place, I expect to have to go through more epidurals but surgery is something I'd have to really think about but if pain gets bad enough you'll just do about anything. I teach Health Science Technology a Career and Technology program for students interested in potentially entering a Health Career after high school. I have a pretty decent handle on the knowledge of my condition but far from an Orthopedist!
  • Yes, well imagine how it is for the kids...

    Spinal stenosis is actually correctable by surgery in some cases, so I'm not sure how that would figure in.

    But in general you have to get a doctor to agree not just with the diagnosis, but with the actual disability as well- and he doesn't just have to "sign you out" but fill out a complex series of questionnaires regarding your ability to do the job. So if you expect that your orthopedic specialist will find you unable to do your job despite medical intervention (including injections, medication, possibly surgery etc), then that's when permanent disability kicks in. Prior to that, your STD and LTD should cover you.

    Usually you can get a few injections a year, if those are helping.

  • Hi John! If you are asking about Social Security Disabiity, I can address that. I have pretty severe stenosis, also at L5-S1, as well as Degenerative Disc Disease and Spondy. I also have COPD. I worked for twenty years as a middle school secretary. When the economy tanked in CA in 2006 and more and more people were being laid off from the school district and it finally trickled down to me with my 20 years seniority, I decided to take my retirement. I decided I could live on my pension and find a school to work at part time if I chose to.At that time I had NO idea that I had these spinal problems because my doc for 10 years would poo-poo me and refuse to even do xrays - just gave me Motrin. I knew I was very uncomfortable sitting for too long or standing/walking for too long. It was painful. When it came to fire drills, they allowed me to be the one to stay inside to ring the all clear bell - I simply could not walk out onto the field and stand there while they went through the process. After I retired and complained to my newe doc here in Ill, he did xrays and MRI - my spine is a trainwreck! I know I need surgery for the spondy and stenosis, but I'm still holding off.
    For all those years I just thought I had a "backache"!

    Last October 21st I faced the realization that I cannot work, even part time. I'm not sure I could even sit long enough to read to first graders! So, sitting here, feeling sorry for myself, I applied online for SS Disability. My doctors supported me 100% and I had excellent documentation. I am not sure but I assume the COPD was taken into account as well, but it took me exactly 4 months from the time I applied until I got a phone call saying I was approved for SSD -Oct 21st - Feb 21st. They tried to get me back pay from Oct 2006 when I last worked but they wouldn;t pay it because there was no documentation from back then.

    John, you're right and I felt the same. It's hard to think of what else I could do for a living if I couldn;t sit, stand or walk for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. I also had the epidurals, 3 of them and they helped alot, but no surgery for me until I have to.

    I'm pretty sure you have to be not working at all when you apply, though. Good luck to you and let us know if you apply!

  • I was unemployed all of last year. I was at a new school in district '08-'09 and missed a lot of days. When you are with a new school district in Texas you are on a probationary contact that first year, well my contract wasn't renewed. The only reason I accepted a new teaching position was for insurance. I could not get an Orthopedist to even see me w/o health insurance last year, so I suffered the whole year but not having to work my back problems weren't as bad as now unless I was very physically active. When I get out of bed, it's like being a cripple, hobbling around until pain meds kick in and my body warms up. Whether I end up with a disabilty retirement or not, I've already missed 10 days of the new school year, it's very possible that my contract will not be renewed again. Pretty much a viscious frustrating circle. Along with my recent mini-stokes, I take so many meds, I'm lethargic and haven't been mentally sharp since the first mini-strokes in Jan.'09 and had another in Sept. this year. I'll just have to see how it plays out. If I can survive 4 more years I can retire on my own terms but with my physical condition and the stress of my teaching job, I may not live another 4 years. Life isn't fair and we all here know that from our afflications!
  • After seeing a pain mgmt. Orthopedist today, was told that my back situation alone wouldn't qualify me for disabilty retirement because it can be treated(first more epidurals) but being on Plavix, I'll have to be off of it for a while before the epidurals because of potential bleeding. Having had 2 series of mini strokes over the last two years adds a lot to the case, so I will see a neurologist next, she sets me up with. She said this would help add additional credence to my case, once we're ready to submit the disabilty application to Texas Teacher Retirement System. It looks like this will take the majority of the next 6 months but I'll just take a day or two off a week as needed. The job stress will eventually kill me if I don't leave the classroom. Guess we'll see what happens first!
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