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Can Social Security Disability Make You Have Back Surgery?

By January 3, 2019May 29th, 2020Social Security Disability

Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability in the American workforce, and many people who receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits do so as a result of back-related disabilities. Surgery can be an effective way to alleviate pain or aid in partial or complete recovery. But just because surgery is an option, do you have to pursue it? People often worry a judge will deny their disability claim if they decide against surgery.

Because back injuries are one of the most common underlying conditions for people who file SSD claims, administrative law judges (ALJ) are very familiar with thoracic, lumbar, and cervical spinal injuries and treatments. They know that treatment for back injuries usually starts with physical therapy, pain medication, and muscle relaxers. Injections are frequently the next step, while invasive surgery is usually the last resort for treating back pain.

Although many disabilities are permanent, some treatments can alleviate your condition to the point that you might be able to work again. For sufferers of chronic back pain, the decision to undergo back surgery is often a tricky one. Sometimes, a treatment might carry with it the possibility of improving your condition. However, the risks may be too great to consider it, or you are not comfortable with the necessary process.

Can Social Security Disability Make You Have Surgery?

Will a judge deny your claim if your doctor recommends surgery, and you decide not to undergo it? No. SSD laws clearly state that judges should not punish you for not pursuing surgery. Nor can they deny your claim for that reason. A judge cannot deny your claim just because you refuse surgery.

Surgery costs a great deal of money. You should not be forced to undergo it if you cannot pay for the operation or post-surgery rehabilitation. Surgery may be risky in your case, and you should not have to assume that risk just because it’s an option on the table.

These are just two situations the Social Security Administration (SSA) finds acceptable reasons for foregoing surgery. It is also possible to opt out of recommended surgery due to your religion, intense fear, incapacity, medical disagreement, or prior history. The SSA will consider other reasons you may not want to undergo surgery on a case-by-case basis.

Prepare to explain to the judge your rationale for why you decided against surgery. Your honesty will give merit to your claim, so long as you can establish that you have weighed all the options thoroughly and picked the one that is best for you.