Carpal tunnel may not seem like a disability. But whether you developed carpal tunnel on its own or it resulted from another condition, it is possible to get disability for your carpal tunnel.
If your carpal tunnel makes it impossible to work, you may qualify for monthly benefits and healthcare. Here’s what you should know before applying for benefits.
A note: Many people who get disability for carpal tunnel have additional injuries or conditions. If, for example, you have COPD that makes it difficult to walk long distances, carpal tunnel that makes it difficult to type or work with your hands, and anxiety that makes customer-facing roles a challenge—those things in combination can “disqualify” you from many jobs. That could help qualify you for disability.
If you’d like an overview of which conditions make you eligible—and how those conditions might impact your chances when evaluated together—read our article on the conditions that qualify for disability.
Alternatively, you can take our 2-minute disability quiz to get immediate insight into your eligibility. When you’re done, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to one of our client advocates—who can give you further, personalized advice.
The short answer is yes, the SSA can consider carpal tunnel a disability. But the reality is that it can be challenging to get monthly benefits and healthcare for your carpal tunnel. Here’s why:
It can be difficult to qualify for disability with carpal tunnel because the SSA doesn’t have an official definition for it. The SSA uses what’s called the Blue Book to list official conditions and their associated symptoms. As of 2022, carpal tunnel does not appear in the Blue Book.
This means that whether or not the SSA defines carpal tunnel as a disability has less to do with the condition itself and more to do with how it impacts your ability to work. Carpal tunnel can cause numbness, pain, tingling, and weakness radiating from the pointer finger and them, and these symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe.
It may be difficult to qualify for disability if your carpal tunnel is mild or moderate, but your odds of approval are higher if your carpal tunnel is severe or requires surgery.
Yes, you can get disability for your carpal tunnel. But qualifying isn’t easy. You’ll have to provide thorough documentation that proves you cannot work because of your carpal tunnel.
A disability lawyer can also increase your odds of approval, and help you ensure you have enough medically-acceptable proof to qualify.
Unlike conditions that do appear in the SSA Blue Book, the criteria for getting disability for carpal tunnel is rather broad.
Some criteria to consider are:
You may also qualify if the severity of the following symptoms make it difficult to complete activities your job requires:
Consider applying if you answer “yes” to most of, or all of, the criteria below:
If you think your carpal tunnel is severe enough to qualify and you have plenty of documentation, it’s time to apply! You can still apply if you’re unsure whether your carpal tunnel meets the criteria, but the application is time consuming and may only be worth it if your chances of approval are high. Here’s what we suggest:
Apply now if:
Consider waiting and applying later if:
Probably don’t apply if:
You can also take our 2-minute disability quiz to find out whether or not you qualify before you apply. If you do qualify, we can connect you with a qualified lawyer who can increase your odds of approval. (You won’t have to pay your lawyer until you get approved for disability benefits).
The SSA has two types of disability benefits programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You can increase your odds of approval by applying for the right program for your situation. If you’ve worked at least five of the last ten years, consider SSDI. If you don’t have much work history and little to no monthly income, SSI might be a better fit.
You can also qualify for both programs. SSDI and SSI use the same application, so you can try for both and see which will give you the most assistance.
Qualifying for disability can be challenging no matter how severe your condition is. It can be even more difficult to qualify for carpal tunnel since the SSA doesn’t have a standard for that condition.
If you are under the age of 50 and your condition is mild or moderate, you might wait to see how your condition develops before you apply. If you’re over the age of 50 and/or your condition is severe enough to cause nerve damage or even require surgery, applying might be well worth the time.
It’s also worth noting that only ~20% of people who apply for disability benefits win their claim on their first application. Even if you don’t get approved the first time, your odds of approval go up when you appeal in front of a judge. At this stage, nearly half of applicants get approved—proof that there is light at the end of the tunnel. For even more support, check out our step-by-step guide to applying for disability.
Since carpal tunnel isn’t in the Blue Book, your disability check may vary greatly and be very dependent on your personal work and income history. SSDI has a maximum monthly benefit of $3,627, while SSI has a maximum monthly benefit of $914 in 2023.
That amount remains the same regardless of how severe your condition is. Because the SSA doesn’t have a set amount for carpal tunnel, they’ll likely put greater weight on your work history if you’re applying for SSDI, and your other sources of income if you’re applying for SSI.
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