Can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome qualify for benefits?
Ask the Advocate
January 18, 2020
Carpal tunnel syndrome generally is caused by the thickening of the tendons from the forearm to the palm of the hand when they become irritated or swollen, compressing the median nerve. Carpal tunnel symptoms generally start with a gradual burning, numbness or tingling in the palm of the claimant's hands and fingers. Although there may be no apparent swelling, some claimants complain that they have difficulty using their fingers.
Other common symptoms of carpal tunnel can include weakness, numbness or radiating pain up the arm. Claimants frequently may have difficulty gripping objects or performing other tasks with their hands such as typing. Other symptoms can include loss of manual dexterity, pain and the periodic locking of a person's hand in a set position.
There are a variety of factors which can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome including trauma to the wrist from an injury such as a fracture, overactive glands, arthritis, fluid retention, menopause, thyroid disease or diabetes. Workers who perform repetitive tasks such as typing, sorting or using vibrating hand tools also have a high incidence of this condition.
Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration does not have a specific listing for carpal tunnel syndrome. Does this mean that you absolutely cannot win benefits for this condition? No, but it will be more difficult.
To determine if you can receive SSD benefits through a medical vocational allowance the Social Security Administration will review your residual functional capacity (RFC) to work.
Whether or not you can perform your current job or retrain for new work will depend on the severity of your condition. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome and your hands frequently lock or you cannot grip objects, you may be able to prove that you cannot perform physical labor and most sorting and packaging jobs.
Medical evidence from your doctor is needed to identify all of the restrictions you have to use your hands. What types of limitations should be documented?
• Schedule of medical treatments
• Limitations to reach, lift, or pull
• Limitations to grip objects
• Limitations using your hands or arms
Many claimants with other conditions may have difficulty proving that they cannot perform sedentary work, but carpal tunnel claimants will have less difficulty proving this because most sedentary, unskilled jobs require that the worker has manual dexterity.
What about skilled sedentary work? Most workers will need either specialized education or training or at the very least will need to be able to type and depending on your age, education, work history or symptoms you may be able to prove you cannot retrain for skilled sedentary work.
If the Social Security Administration determines that you do not have the residual functional capacity to work (given your age, medical condition, work history or education level) they will award you either SSDI or SSI benefits, assuming you meet the nonmedical criteria of the corresponding program.
An Accredited Disability Representative with more than 20 years experience, Diana Wade believes her clientele can be comfortable knowing that she is recognized by SSA and is a charter member of NADR. To contact Ms. Wade call (661) 821-0494, email [email protected] or visit http://www.CaliforniaDisability.net.