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St. Petersburg Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Claims for Social Security Disability Benefits

August 10, 2016 Blog

St. Petersburg Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Claims

If you are an individual who repetitively uses your hands in your workplace, you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).  Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include weakness of the muscles of the hands, sensory loss in the arms, and swelling and pain in the wrists and hands.  To diagnose CTS, a doctor would conduct nerve conduction studies and electromyography (an EMG) on areas including the median and ulnar nerve.  You could be given anti-inflammatory medications, a wrist splint, or undergo surgery to help alleviate your carpal tunnel syndrome pain.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) routinely sees claims for Social Security disability benefits based upon carpal tunnel syndrome.  However, to be successful in your Social Security disability case, you will need to prove that you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, the medical condition has lasted 12 months, and it causes such significant limitations in the use of your hands or arms that you are unable to work.

Medical Evidence Necessary to Establish Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Based upon your self-report, the SSA may send you to a consultative neurological examination to verify whether you have a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome.  Even if you have a diagnosis, your medical records would need to support that your CTS is a severe impairment.  An impairment is considered severe if it causes more than a minimal effect on your ability to handle basic work duties.  The Social Security Administration will consider whether your medical history indicates that you have complained of hand pain in the past, how often the pain occurs, and what activities cause the pain.

The SSA will carefully comb through your medical records to determine the severity of your carpal tunnel syndrome.  Helpful medical evidence of CTS would include the following:

  • Decreased grip strength in the hands
  • A positive Phalen’s or Tinel’s sign
  • An x-ray of the hands showing arthritic changes or other findings
  • Abnormal nerve conduction testing or EMG
  • Medical opinions from your treating doctor or a specialist

Most Social Security disability cases will have a mixture of favorable and unfavorable medical evidence.  There are many reasons why the Social Security Administration might initially reject your disability claim.  The SSA might consider that your carpal tunnel syndrome has medically improved if you did not discuss any symptoms or limitations resulting from your CTS during a given period of time.  Also, if you did not visit your doctor regularly, the SSA can assume that you have failed to seek medical help and therefore may not believe your statements regarding your carpal tunnel syndrome.  In addition, the SSA will consider what activities you do on a daily basis.  If these activities are inconsistent with your symptoms, then the SSA may disregard your testimony.

Social Security Disability Listings and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When the Social Security Administration reviews your Social Security disability claim, it will consider whether your medical evidence shows that you meet or equal a disability listing.  If you meet a disability listing, you will be presumed disabled.  Disability listings are found in the Listing of Impairments, also referred to as the Blue Book.

Unfortunately, carpal tunnel syndrome is not specifically contained in the Social Security disability listings.  As such, the SSA will need to evaluate your residual functional capacity (RFC) as a means to determine whether you are unable to work and should be found disabled.

Your RFC and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Your residual functional capacity (RFC) is an assessment of your ability to do work-related physical and mental tasks in a work environment for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  You can be found disabled only if your RFC indicates that you are unable to perform the work duties of your past relevant work (work in the last 15 years) and any other jobs in significant numbers in the national economy.  The SSA is required to consider medical opinions when formulating your RFC.  Generally, if the medical opinion is from your regular treating doctor or from a specialist, it should be given greater weight.  However, the SSA might reject a doctor’s opinion that does not adequately explain the basis for his clinical findings.

For individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome, how often you can use your hands (known as manipulative limitations) can be a vital issue in your Social Security disability case.  If you are limited to occasional use of your hands as a result of your CTS then there would be many fewer jobs available in the national economy.  A vocational expert will testify at an administrative hearing regarding whether there are jobs you can perform based upon your RFC.  Since a case involving carpal tunnel syndrome will often hinge on the testimony of the vocational expert, it is advisable to hire an attorney who has experience with St. Petersburg carpal tunnel syndrome claims for Social Security disability benefits.