El Paso Carpal Tunnel and Disability Attorney

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition that causes pain in the hands and wrists caused by repetitive motions, such as typing. CTS can make working in a variety of settings painful and often impossible. If you are diagnosed with CTS that prevents you from working, Jon Sipes, Attorney at Law, may be able to assist you in obtaining Social Security Disability benefits. Jon Sipes is skilled in assisting South Texans suffering from disabling conditions that permanently impact the ability to work. He has represented numerous clients impacted by carpal tunnel in obtaining the disability benefits they are entitled to under the law. 

IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT WITH CTS, OR ANY OTHER HAND OR WRIST IMPAIRMENT, THAT THE CLAIMANT GET A HAND/GRIP TEST CONDUCTED BY YOUR TREATING PHYSICIAN.  A hand/grip test shows the strength and function level, or lack thereof, the impaired hand(s). 

What Are Social Security Benefits?

Social Security benefits come in two forms: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both types of Social Security benefits are generally available to individuals suffering from long-term conditions that prevent them from working. 

Whether you qualify for SSDI or SSI depends on the number of years you have worked and paid Social Security taxes. Eligibility for SSDI is based on a formula analyzing age, the number of years worked, and payroll taxes paid. Generally, you must have worked for some portion of the last ten years to meet SSDI eligibility.

SSDI payments are based on the amount of Social Security payroll taxes you paid during your employment history. The amount of SSI payments are based on an amount set by Congress. As a result, monthly SSDI payments are usually higher than SSI payments.

If you are ineligible for SSDI, you may still qualify for SSI. SSI is a need-based program that benefits the elderly, the blind, and those with other disabilities.

The two programs also differ when it comes to health insurance. Individuals approved for SSDI must wait 2 years to qualify for Medicare, while individuals approved for SSI are eligible for Medicaid immediately. 

Who Is Entitled to Social Security Benefits?

Entitlement to either SSDI or SSI benefits requires applying to the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration is a federal agency tasked with administering disability benefits. The Social Security Administration reviews applications for benefits and decides whether the applicant has a severe, long-term medical condition that is expected to last at least 1 year or result in death.

An applicant’s medical condition must also prevent him or her from performing any substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA is activity that results in income over a set amount. In 2020, SGA is defined as performing work that results in earning income of more than $1,260 per month. This amount is subject to change yearly.

Disability can result from physical injuries, chronic medical conditions, or mental illness. The Social Security Administration determines whether a disability impacts the ability to work substantially enough to entitle an applicant to SSDI or SSI. When applying, it is important to bolster your claim with facts that support a finding of a disability.

What is CTS?

CTS is a condition that occurs when pressure on one of the main nerves in the wrist causes swelling. The nerve affected is responsible for providing feeling to the hand. People experiencing CTS report weakness in the hand, numbness, or tingling in the hand and fingers, difficulty moving the fingers, problems carrying items, and pain in the arm, wrist, and hand.

CTS is not caused by one specific issue. Several factors that can lead to CTS. CTS commonly occurs as a result of a fracture that changes the wrist’s internal spacing, which places pressure on the nerve. CTS can also occur from other conditions, such as arthritis, chronic illnesses, and inflammation. One common cause of CTS is repetitive actions that lead to swelling in the wrists. These actions include common workplace activities such as typing, using a mouse, or operating machinery. 

Depending on the severity of the CTS, treatment may include: wearing a splint, taking pain medication, stretching or exercising the hands and wrists, or surgery. In severe cases, treatments may not cure the symptoms, only improve them. For instance, surgery to remove the protrusion on the nerve may eliminate the pain, but numbness, tingling, and weakness may still occur after surgery.

How Is CTS Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of CTS results from a medical evaluation upon showing known symptoms of CTS, physical observation, and specialized medical testing such as electromyography and, in some cases, imaging. While diagnosis is important, a diagnosis of CTS alone does not mean an applicant is disabled. Applicants must show CTS inhibits their ability to work.

Is Carpal Tunnel a Disability?

The Social Security Administration does not categorize CTS as a disability by itself. Instead, CTS is often considered a symptom of another medical condition. For instance, because CTS is caused by nerve damage, applicants experiencing CTS may be experiencing peripheral neuropathy, which is considered a disability. 

CTS may also be a symptom of other diseases that impair an applicant’s ability to work, such as diabetes, arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, or kidney failure. In the event an applicant has one of these diseases related to CTS, he or she may be able to claim a disability based on the disease and its symptoms. 

How Does the Social Security Administration Evaluate Disability Claims Based on CTS?

To evaluate whether there is a disability, the Social Security Administration requires an applicant to prove he or she is unable to work. Describing pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness associated with CTS is generally not enough to prove that an applicant is unable to work. 

The Social Security Administration evaluates an applicant’s ability to work through a tool called a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment. The RFC measures the most an applicant can do despite physical or mental impairments. To assess RFC, the Social Security Administration considers evidence including medical records, a medical exam, and your statements regarding your pain or other limitations caused by CTS. 

The RFC examines an applicant’s physical abilities, mental abilities, and other abilities such as senses affected by an impairment. Disability based on CTS symptoms is usually related to an applicant’s physical abilities. Assessment of physical abilities considers an applicant’s ability to do work such as sitting, standing walking, lifting, carrying, or other physical functions, in light of the applicant’s physical limitations. 

The Social Security Administration will evaluate an applicant’s physical limitations while considering the physical demands of a job. For example, a job requiring repetitive pushing and pulling heavy objects or manufacturing machinery might be difficult or impossible for someone with CTS to perform daily. 

What Happens if a Disability Claim Is Denied with Carpal Tunnel?

If the Social Security Administration denies a claim for disability based on CTS, the applicant may appeal that decision to an Administrative Law Judge. The applicant will then need to make a case on appeal as to why he or she is, in fact, disabled. Consulting with an experienced disability attorney can assist applicants in winning appeals from an initial SSDI or SSI denial.

Discuss Your Claim for Carpal Tunnel Based Disability with an El Paso Social Security Disability Attorney

CTS can severely limit your ability to work but in many cases, the pain associated with CTS is hard to prove. The Social Security Administration is often skeptical that CTS alone impairs an applicant’s ability to work and often denies disability claims. Jon Sipes, Attorney at Law, has helped many disability applicants overcome an initial denial of SSDI or SSI benefits after building a case that accurately demonstrates an applicant is unable to work. Jon Sipes understands the Social Security Administration’s complex eligibility factors and is ready to assist applicants in El Paso and West Texas win their disability claims. Contact Jon Sipes, Attorney at Law, today.