Close Menu


Once again, the SSA changes the listings, the SSA rules, for people with a back disability. This change should concern to all lawyers and claimants who are seeking disability benefits. When the SSA changes the medical criteria for a disability determination, it effect million of people who apply for benefits. Especially in this instance, because every year there are millions of disability claims for back impairments. The new rules, including the new preamble, will be effective on April 2, 2021.


The current rules, which have been in place for a number of years, will continue to apply until April 2, 2021. However, the new rules, valid on April 2, 2021, will apply to new applications filed on or after April 2, 2021. Most importantly, the new rules will also apply to claims that are still pending on or after April 2, 2021.

What this means is if you had a hearing a few months ago and are claiming disability based on back impairments, then the new rules will apply to you. They will apply to your case and the judge will use them in his or her decision, even if your hearing was before April 2, 2021. If the judge has not yet issued a decision in your case, then the new rules will apply.

It is important to understand the new rules, so that you can provide the correct medical evidence to the SSA. As always, the medical information that the judge sees is what wins the case. If you do not have the correct medical evidence, then you cannot win your case. This post applies specifically to the changes for back disorders that previously fell under listing 1.02.

back disability and pain


The new SSA disability listing, which you can read below, replaces the old listing. Under the Social Security Administration’s listings you must show you have a medically determinable impairment. Also, you can refer to the Federal Register and read about the SSA’s reasoning in changing the back listing here.

This listing still applies to those with a herniated spinal disc and neuropathy. You may have also heard that your back pain be called a ruptured disc, slipped disc, or degenerative disc disease. Herniated discs can cause sciatica. Likewise, sciatica or neuropathy occurs when pain radiates down the long sciatic nerve running from the lower back into the lower legs. The SSA listings contains all of these medical conditions.

In order to medically meet the listing, all of the symptoms under each element must be in your medical records and occur at the same time. The listing is long. Pay attention to the words “and” and “or.” If the word “and” is used, that means both elements are needed to meet the listing. If the word “or” is listed, then only one element out of two is necessary. Please also note that the SSA requires the “bilateral” use of canes or assistive devices. Using a cane in one hand, for example, does not meet the listing. Meeting the listing requires having all of the elements on the list. Equaling the listing means you have a combination of impairments that are as severe as meeting the listing.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

1.15 Disorders of the skeletal spine resulting in compromise of a nerve root(s) (see 1.00F), documented by A, B, C, and D:

A. Neuro-anatomic (radicular) distribution of one or more of the following symptoms consistent with compromise of the affected nerve root(s):

1. Pain; or

2. Paresthesia; or

3. Muscle fatigue.


B. Radicular distribution of neurological signs present during physical examination (see 1.00C2) or on a diagnostic test (see 1.00C3) and evidenced by 1, 2, and either 3 or 4:

1. Muscle weakness; and

2. Sign(s) of nerve root irritation, tension, or compression, consistent with compromise of the affected nerve root (see 1.00F2)

3. Sensory changes evidenced by:

a. Decreased sensation; or

b. Sensory nerve deficit (abnormal sensory nerve latency) on electrodiagnostic testing; or

4. Decreased deep tendon reflexes.



C. Findings on imaging (see 1.00C3) consistent with compromise of a nerve root(s) in the cervical or lumbosacral spine.


D. Impairment-related physical limitation of musculoskeletal functioning that has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months, and medical documentation of at least one of the following:

1. A documented medical need (see 1.00C6) for a walker, bilateral canes, or bilateral crutches (see 1.00C6d) or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of both hands (see 1.00C6e(i)); or

2. An inability to use one upper extremity to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements (see 1.00E4), and a documented medical need (see 1.00C6a) for a one-handed, hand-held assistive device (see 1.00C6d) that requires the use of the other upper extremity or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of one hand (see 1.00C6e(ii)); or

3. An inability to use both upper extremities to the extent that neither can be used to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements (see 1.00E4).


If your back disability does not meet or equal the listing, there is another way to win benefits. You can obtain SSD & SSI benefits by proving your residual functional capacity (RFC) eliminates your ability to sustain full-time work at any job. Your RFC is a determination of what you are physically capable of doing in an eight hour workday. Another way to think of it is having your doctor outline your physical and mental impairments. The outline needs to be specific.

For example, it will be helpful to your case if your doctor writes in your medical record that due to your back impairment, you are not able to lift more than 10 pounds. Also, your doctor could write that you cannot stand for more than 2 hours in an 8 hour day. These two limitations will prevent you from performing many types of work. You would not be able, for example, to perform medium or light work. Both of which require the ability to lift more than 20 pounds and stand for up to 6 hours in an 8 hour workday. For instance, you couldn’t be a cashier or work at a warehouse stocking shelves, because you couldn’t physically perform that duties of that work.

If you do not have this kind of evidence, then you should request a consultative examination. The SSA sends people to physical and mental doctors at no cost to you. These doctors can examine you and they will write a report to the SSA about your residual functional capacity.


As you can see, the back listing for disability benefits is complicated. It is best to hire an experienced attorney to present your case. When you hire us, we will help you file your application. Also, we will help you complete SSA’s paperwork. The SSA will probably deny your case, because the SSA denies the majority of cases. However, we will appeal for you. If you need to go to a hearing with a judge, you should not go alone. Experience counts. Hire an experienced representative to present your case to the judge.

Remember, if you hire us to represent you and we do not win your case, then you do not owe an attorney fee. Do your research. Find out how many cases your attorney has done. Then, hire the legal team with the most experience. If you want to find out more about our legal team, you can call our office. You can also read our website. Dianna Cannon has 30 years of experience practicing disability law. Andria Summers has 20 years of experience representing claimants on appeal and in court. Brett Bunkall has won hundreds of disability cases in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and California.

Our legal team understands disability law and knows the difficulties you are facing. We have won over $100 million in ongoing and past-due disability benefits for our clients. Although we can’t guarantee we will win your case, we will do our very best to help you through the disability process. Therefore, contact us today. Hire a disability attorney with the experience to deal with the SSA.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Contact Form Tab

Quick Contact Form