Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition more commonly seen in women. It is associated with doing repetitive type work using one’s hands such as doing assembly line work involving grasping and handling objects or typing. As a claims examiner formerly involved in reviewing disability cases for social security, I am aware of what is needed for improvng one’s chances for receiving benefits. Symptoms consist of a feeling of numbness and tingling associated with pain in the hands and possibly difficulty using one’s hands. The condition can also be seen in those with diabetes, arthritis and obesity.
DO YOU QUALIFY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS ?
The cause is compression of a nerve called the median nerve at the wrist. The diagnosis is made by a doctor’s examination as well as an EMG study which is a device that measures electrical activity. Individuals working for the state will review your doctor’s medical record to determine the degree of pain you have, response to treatment and possible loss of hand functions. A critical point to remember is that although you may continue to complain of pain in your hands, an examination of your hands may show that you can still grasp and handle objects and perform fine fingering functions such as typing and picking up small objects. If examinations show these findings it is apparent that you can still perform tasks using your hands and therefore be denied benefits. The important point to understand is what hand functions you can still perform despite pain, over an 8 hour working day. This is what the state wishes to know in specific terms.. Also, social security rules state that your hand impairment must last at least 12 months. Although in the beginning you may have shown difficulty gripping objects, typing and writing, with treatment you may show considerable improvement in performing these activities by one year.
SOCIAL SECURITY RULES
1. Your impairment, in this case carpal tunnel syndrome, must last at least 12 consecutive months or may be expected to last that long. 2. Medical evidence in your record must be from acceptable medical sources such as physicians or physical therapists. 3. Evidence from a chiropractor is not considered to be from an acceptable medical source.
HAVE YOUR DOCTOR WRITE A LETTER
Your doctor should state to what degreee you are limited in your ability to grasp, hold objects as well as picking up small objects, type and write. It would be very helpful if your doctor would state by letter how well you can grasp and perform fine fingering movements such as typing and picking up small objects over an 8 hour day; he should state specifically if you can perform these functions frequently or be limited to occasionally; the critical word for possibly getting benefits is occasionally which means a third of the day or less. For instance, your doctor may state that you can grasp, hold, write and pick up small objects one third out of an 8 hour day.
EXAM TO DETERMINE HOW WELL YOU USE YOUR HANDS
The state will also require you to give a summary of how you function during the day such as your ability to dress yourself, prepare meals, type, write and do normal daily activities. Sometimes, if they cannot make a determination with the evidence provided, you may be asked to attend a CE exam which is a physical examination paid for by the state to evaluate your hand functions. At that time a doctor will perform a thorough examination of your hand functions and will state how well you can grasp and hold objects as well as perform tasks such as writing, tying and picking up small objects.
The process of applying for social security benefits can be very confusing and seeking the aid of an attorney familar with disability cases would be of great value.