The Basics On Musculoskeletal Disorders And SSD Approval

Important: We updated this article with current policy data and statistics in May 2023. 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 of success, 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 conditions 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 disorders 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 people on SSD (34%) got benefits in December 2021. In fact, you’re more likely to develop musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis after you turn 50. In 2021, 90% of people getting SSD for musculoskeletal disorders were aged 50-65. That’s 2.4 million people with health problems such as chronic back pain, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia.

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

Work history plays a role for people at least 50 years old seeking benefits with musculoskeletal disorders. According to the SSA, hereditary causes, traumatic events, or degenerative diseases can all cause musculoskeletal disorders. The agency will check to see 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 you can do with your current limits.

Tip: Need proof your condition makes you unable to work? Show the DDS exam doctor that you cannot bend over and pick up a dropped pencil.

While musculoskeletal disorders can help people aged 50-66 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 best possible case.

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? Get a lawyer to review your case and file your paperwork for free! All disability lawyers charge no fees until after the SSA awards you benefits. And if you do win, then you’ll only pay one small fee.

Want free expert claim help without leaving your home? Click the button to start your free online benefits quiz to see if you may qualify now:

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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.