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Disability Retirement with Spinal Stenosis



  • Had a medial lower lumbar nerve branch block. It did help but all this is is to see if the lydocaine numbs specific nerves, that would be targeted in a neurotomy. Really took it easy the next week but pain returned quickly. The next week I tried to do some activities walking for more than 20-30 minutes aggrevated lower back, squating and bending the same. I needed to do some simple work on my RV but required climbing up and down a ladder 5-6 time same thing pain returned. If I don't have to be very active, I could get buy with probably less than 2 Norco 10/325's and break them in half trying to minimize, the opiate in my system. Sometime I get headaches 6-8 hours w/o pain med. I'm just wondering if this could be signs of withdrawl.
    I'm still in no better condition than when we started in Oct. 2010. I want to be active because I need to lose some weight which I'm sure is compounding my back pain. If the neurotomy helps me for a year or so, I'll be glad for the relief. I'm just no longer in good enough physical or mental state to go back to the stress of the high school classroom.
    Guess I'll have to try to find a position in some capacity with a school district so I don't have to take such a large hit on my pension.

    I'm just burned out from the classroom and the state of the educational system in our high schools. 25-30% of the students ruin it for the students and the teacher. At least I'm just 4 years away from full retirement but that's a little less than 50% of my 3 highest years salary average and that's $50,000 , so I'd draw $24,000 a year, I'll have to see how much of a hit on S.S. I'll end up taking. I'm just tired of being tired and in pain.
  • MetalneckMetalneck The Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,778
    Having just gone through the gauntlet of SSD, I have grown to have a respect for the substantial methodology they employ in their determination.

    I will share the highlights with you:

    A. Common statements include: Do you have a Condition/Illness or disorder that will (or is expected to) last greater than one year.

    B. Does it impair your ability to perform ADL's (activities of daily living).

    Now for the heavy stuff: Applicable Law(s)(abridged)

    The Social Security Administration has established a 5 step sequential evaluation process for determination whether an individual is disabled. The steps are followed in order. If it is determined that the claimant is not disabled at a step of the evaluation process, the evaluation will not go to the next step.

    At step one the ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) must determine whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity (currently working) if he/she is.... then they are not disabled regardless of what their physical or mental limitations maybe. They will not proceed to step two.

    At step two, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment that is "severe" or a combination of impairments that is "severe" within the meaning of the regulations.
    (Significantly limits the ability to perform basic work activities). If the claimant does not have a "severe" or combination of "severe" medical impairments ... then they are not "disabled" and can not proceed to step three.

    At step three, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant impairment or condition or combination of impairment meet of exceed the criteria of impairments listed in 20 CFR part 404 Subpart P Appendix 1. If the impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals the criteria and meets the duration requirement then the claimant is disabled if it does not, the analysis proceeds to the next step.

    Before considering step four of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ must first determine the claimant’s residual functional capacity. An individuals RFC is his/her ability to do physical and mental work on a sustained basis despite limitations from his/her impairments. In making this finding the ALJ must consider all of the claimant’s impairments, including those that are not severe. Next at step four the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has residual functional capacity to perform the requirements of his/her past relevant work. If the claimant has the residual functional capacity to do their past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled. If not then proceed to step 5.

    At the last step of the sequential evaluation process the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is able to do any of work considering his/her residual functional capacity considering age, education, and work experience. If the claimant is able to do other work, he/she is not disabled. Although the burden of proof of proving disability at this step, a limited burden of proof shifts to the SSA. The SSA (Social Security Administration is responsible for providing such evidence that work exists in significant numbers within the claimants RFC considering age, education, and work experience.

    The SSA may also bring in other criteria to be considered on a case by case basis to arrive at a final determination. In those cases the SSA must determine the extent that the other criteria are a factor in the determination of the above criteria and could use those factors to allow or disallow the determination of "disability".

    My case had 5 1/2 pages of determinations and justifications covering each of the 5 points ....After 16 months - 2 obligatory denials a date hearing was set. The ALJ finally got my case and gave me a fully favorable determination without an actual hearing. Interesting!?

    Power of prayer? (or I'm just a mess).

    I hope this summary helps - You may want to google or Bing - Disability Secrets for more information and tips.

    The govenment site is WWW.SocialSecurity.gov and has a ton of information. (as it should)

    As always ... Warmest Regards to all,

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  • The Texas TRS for Disabilty Retirement is who I'd apply through. It consisist of 3 doctors on the board and 2 of the 3 Drs. must concur. I just don't know if they look at can I continue to function and do my job as a classroom teacher satisfactorily or just do any type of work period. I don't have any idea if they look at the same criteria as SSD. I haven't paid into S.S. in a long time and have received the routine letter from S.S. of what I would qualify for S.S. benefits but that I would not be eligble for SSD/SSI due I lack quarters paid into to meet SSD disabilty minimum qualification. I have not even attempted to file paper work yet. Not working may help my situation but I guess I can take an early retirement, file for disabilty, if turned down speak with an attorney. I can function fairly well, it's just the pain, that is the issue. This year I made a full week only a couple times. Standing and walking causes me severe pain and working at a computer for much longer than an hour does the same. Not many jobs if any jobs that doesn't require both of these job duties. All the meds I'm on, makes me lethargic and not mentally sharp. With high school kids that like sharks with me bleeding in the water. It was struggle just to physically be at work must less perform proficiently!My condition has cost me two teaching positions in the last 3 years, The only reason I took the position this year, was for the insurance.

    Thanks for you comments and references d.
  • I guess I am going to be viewed as the "bad guy" here.... From what YOU posted, I feel more of your "disability" retirement is to get AWAY from your job. Sorry to say that, but so far you have not given US enough to show you can not work - be it a different job. You HATE what you do....

    I know teaching can suck (certificated flight instructor and adjunct college (qualified) professor here), so I hear you. The medical information you have presented doesn't pan out yet. Okay, I may get a 'warning' for this, but this is what *I* am seeing. You HATE your job, you do have some spine issues...but issues you could adapt to other jobs of similar pay? I would love to work again...not so much for the money (my retirement annuity is good), but a distraction....can't do even basic jobs with reliability and my stupid back reactions. You haven't shown that. Maybe you are, but again...you haven't shown that..

    Brenda - aka "bad guy".....
    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Brenda,
    No that isn't at all what I really want. Doing nothing productive and not having the finances to be active and productive, will end up taking its mental toll on a person. I'm just very frustrated that my doctor's haven't made any progress. My life has come down to revolving around my meds and pain. I know the possibilty of being granted a diabilty retirement is quite slim. Between having a series of mini-strokes in 2009 and the progression of my Spinal Stenosis over the last 10+ years and my age of 58 puts me in a very precarious position job/career wise. I may have to suck it up and try to work in a menial job capacity for a school district in food service or some clerical support capacity, to meet the requirements for my pension. I've been through some tough spots in my life and you learn if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger.

    Yes I have come to hate teaching but it's rather bold and brazen for you to compare your position in teaching to that of of having taught at 3 public high schools that have a very low socioeconomic demographic population(ages 14-19 years of age and disabilties)over the last 16 years.
    I now face not having health insurance to continue my back treatments. One last thing what type of income do you have coming in and do you have a spouse that assists in finances/health insurance.

    What I would advise is for you to do is substitute in a large high school similar to what I described for a few days. If you think a teacher sits and stays in their classrooms from 7:30am-4:00pm and their day is done, you have come to the wrong perception of what public school teaching is like. You have the right to your opinion and no hard feelings but answer some of my questions on your sources of income/health care/insurance. Have a good day.
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  • John,

    Thank you for giving your name. :) Of what you have posted, your 'mini strokes' are most concerning. A stroke, is a stroke, is a stroke - not good!

    I didn't list my teaching credentials to trivialize that of teaching teens, but to show I too understand the 'teaching' aspect if you will. I've done some teaching in middle and high schools, and believe me, I am NOT impressed with the attitudes of our present youth. So to that, I "take my hat off" to you.

    It just sucks when a career we loves becomes a career we hate? I guess I feel *that* pain as I loved my career, but had no choice and had to leave it. I was recently offered a pretty good job as a Director of (air) Operations to which mentally I have the tools, but knew I could not instill the physical requirements.....I had to turn it down after much trepidation. The sucky part? I could have dictated my hours and to a large extent, my duties..but since I couldn't guarantee 100%, I turned down the job.

    So no jab on you, just wanted to clarify that there is a lot to being approved for disability beyond that of doing the job you are presently in? I hope and pray you can either mature to 'regular' retirement, or be awarded disability retirement. But, based on what we've seen here, it might be a big fight to be approved. You are your best advocate, so don't give up the fight!!! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks for the info metalneck. SSD is a painful process and wait. Like we spine sufferers need another worry. After all we do pay into SS for a reason either to be disabled or retire with SS. I would, like most all would trade my health to be able to work. SSD is barely enough to survive on, let alone live on. I was turned down last year and reapplied 2/21/11 with a good lawyer and so far I have not been approved as of yet. I hope to hear something in the next month or so. Good luck to all with SSD and their spinal problems.
  • I will have a Neurotomy on the lower lumbar/sacroiliac nerves on the right side in one session and about 10 days later same on the left. If I get enough relief, I'll try to find a position with a school district in some capacity that pays in to the Texas TRS system. At this point, I can't be picky. I have years of experience in institutional food service when I was in my 20's from cook to management or Maybe a paraprofessional in education. I have to give myself a month to see the level of results of the Neurotomies. If killing the nerves, until the eventually regenerate, gives me a year or so relief, I'll take it. I have other health issues compounding my situation but not to the point that if my back is releatively pain free, I do plan going back to work if I can find a position. It's time to leave the classroom as the full time teacher in charge though. Still at 58 it's going to be tough! I know of the resources at my disposal to assist me in returning to work. I can take an early retirement but it would cut my retiremeny in half with only 4 years left before, I could retire w/o penalties. At least I have outs, many people in our country don't even have that. Have to keep things in a positive perspective. Our country is headed for some very tough times!
  • John
    Hi. I don't post here often. I have avoided surgery since diagnosis. I recently started having increasing nerve symptoms. So am in the process of seeing a neurosurgeon and just had new lumbar and cervical mri's done. I am now 51, and had worked from the age of 14. I had also been in the Army for almost 3 years. I was in the medical field until 2003. We had an unplanned, total surprise, baby in that year. I was 43 at the time. Tried to go back to work part time, while she was small. In 2006 herniated my L4-L5, plus had bilateral CTS for over 15 years. I had permanent nerve damage in both hands . I had release surgery on right hand 2007. Nerve damage same before and after surgery, so opted to not have left hand done. I also have cervical issues discovered in 2001 and multiple levels. I wanted to still work, and after my herniation asked the neurologist I had been seeing on and off since 2001. He was the one to tell me that I couldn't work anymore and I needed to apply for SSDI. After checking into it, I found out because I had been off work from having had a baby since 2003. That time had counted against me, for not working. If I didn't apply within a year, I would no longer qualify for SSDI. Even though I had worked for 30 years full time. My only time in that span of not working was when I was a junior in high school and was in sports, band and academics to increase my chances for scholarship. Anyway, I didn't want to believe the Doctor, but went ahead and applied for SSDI, and got a lawyer within the state thats law firm specialized in social security and workers compensation. The process, exams, paperwork, and doctor visits were a nightmare. I couldn't believe what they put people through to be determined disabled. My initial application was denied, which is what happens in most of the time. I was then put into the appeal process, and my lawyer was accumulating the documentation necessary for an appeal in court. I live in NY so my lawyer told me that they had a new option where they put cases before administrative judges directly. With no court appearances. They just go by the documentation, he thought my case might be one they would do that with. Well turned out he was right. My appeal went right to a judge and was approved. The lawyer never had to do anything except collect documentation and send it to the SSI board. I was in a bad age range also, for them not wanting to approve, because I was going to be collecting a bunch of years before retirement age. All this means, that if you have a doctor or 2, that believe you are 100% disabled you can try for disability. If you have sick time saved up, you can use that time to submit your case. I know now that my doctor was right, and I couldn't work anymore. Hard adjustment to make both physically and mentally. As well as the depression, pain, and loss of social contacts. Which for me was usually my coworkers while at work. I didn't socialize outside of work very much. So wanted you to know, it isn't impossible to qualify, and I haven't had to resort to surgery, till probably now. Good luck and take care. Sorry this was so long.
  • John,
    TRS is really very different from SSDI. Even the paperwork is much simpler. I had to take a disability from teaching 11 years ago. I am just 57 now. TRS figures your disability as if you have the magic Rule of 80. As said here it is not the greatest, but I am happy to hve the income and the insurance even though it is expensive. I FOUGHT after about 4 years to get Medicare. Social security kept telling me I was not eligible for it and I finally forced their hand since my doctor kept encouraging me to do so. That sort of blew up i my face because now Medicare is primary and my TRS insurance is secondary. My price of TRS insurance dropped from 300 a month to $100 and then I pay for Medicare, too. They won't take the Medicare out of my check and I have to remember to pay it quarterly and this year finally started having my bank draft it once a month. That is much easier. TRS lets me sub or work for aschool 90 days a year. I do that now that my health has leveled off.

    Well, I was until this year when I fell and have been out with knee surgery and cervical issues.

    I also now work part time.

    TRS made me have that annual review for about three yrs. I was always scared to death that in October they would say "no you are no longer disabled" and that no one would hire me. After three years they sent my docs paperwork to fill out that was much more detailed and granted mine without the annual review from then on.

    Anyway, if you are still having issues, fill out the paperwork and have your doctors do their side. It is not anything in comparision to the number of SSDI forms. My doctor submitted my paperwork and within 4 weeks I was told it was granted.

    Good luck with this and I hope you hanging in there.

    Oh yeah, by TRS rules you just have to be disabled and unable to perform the duties of your job. SS says you have to be unable to perform any job.

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