musculoskeletal disorders
The Basics On Musculoskeletal Disorders And SSD Approval

The Basics On Musculoskeletal Disorders And SSD Approval

Important: We updated this article with current policy data and statistics in May 2022. Many people with musculoskeletal disorders think only people in wheelchairs will qualify for Social Security disability (SSD). However, the Social Security Administration approves millions of SSD claims for these conditions (like arthritis) every year. If you’re over 50 years old, you’re much more likely to get disability benefits for musculoskeletal disorders. To improve your chances for approval, learn about the claim process before you apply below.

What Musculoskeletal Disorders May Qualify for SSD?

Some people may not realize their joint pain comes from a musculoskeletal disorder. Basically, these impairments affect your muscles, bones and joints. Whether it’s your hip, knee, or back that hurts, you may qualify for SSD. The SSA really wants to know: Does it stop you from working for at least one year?

Common musculoskeletal disorders that may qualify for SSD include:

Musculoskeletal impairments are much more likely to affect people working certain jobs, including:

  • Nurses
  • Truck drivers
  • Food industry workers (i.e., chefs, wait staff, caterers, bartenders, line cooks, etc.)
  • Waste collectors
  • Construction workers
  • Beer, wine and liquor store employees

Although musculoskeletal disorder risks increase with age, your job plays a role, too.

How Many SSD Beneficiaries Have Musculoskeletal Disorders?

If you think you cannot get SSD benefits due to musculoskeletal disorders, think again. According to the SSA’s Annual Report, musculoskeletal disorders are why more than 1 in 3 SSD beneficiaries (34%) got benefits in December 2020. In fact, you’re more likely to develop musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis after you turn 50. In 2017, 89% of people getting SSD for musculoskeletal disorders were aged 50-64. That’s nearly 2.5 million people with disabilities such as nerve root compressions, osteoporosis and fractured vertebrae.

Is The Claim Review Process Different For Those With Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Work history plays a role for applicants at least 50 years old with musculoskeletal disorders. According to the SSA, hereditary causes, traumatic events or degenerative processes can all cause musculoskeletal disorders. The agency will evaluate how much it limits your ability to work. But if you’re aged 25-49 or have a college degree, then your SSD approval odds are lower. That’s because they believe you can learn new skills or find jobs that fit your current limitations.

Tip: Need proof your condition prevents you from working? Show the DDS exam doctor that you cannot bend over and pick up a dropped pencil.

While musculoskeletal disorders can help applicants aged 50-64 get benefits, a Social Security attorney can triple your chances. Even if you’re not mobile, the SSA may say you can do sedentary work. A lawyer can ensure your claim is error-free and present the strongest possible case. Those who apply without legal assistance the first time usually get turned down. In other words, 2 in every 5 first-time filers get denied for basic mistakes on their claim forms!

If this happens, you have another 60 days to appeal. Your appeal will add another 100-215 days’ wait time, on average. (Wait times vary by state; find yours here.) Can’t wait that long with no income for much-needed benefits? Get a lawyer to review your case and file your paperwork for free! All disability lawyers work on contingency, so you’ll pay nothing for legal help unless you win. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.