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Is Osteoporosis a Disability? How to Qualify for SSD Benefits

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
April 29, 2024  ·  4 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

If your osteoporosis makes it difficult to work, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Over 34% of disability recipients qualified in 2022 due to a disease of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissues, which is how the Social Security Administration (SSA) categorizes osteoporosis.

Even so, securing benefits from the SSA for osteoporosis is a challenging process. We'll walk you through how the SSA defines osteoporosis and its qualification criteria, then offer some guidance on what steps to consider next.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that weakens the bones, making them fragile and susceptible to breaking. It's often referred to as a "silent disease" due to the fact a person typically doesn't experience any symptoms until they break a bone. Bones can become so weak that even a minor fall or typical stress from daily activities, such as bending over or lifting something, can lead to a break.

Types of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is typically classified in one of two ways, depending on its cause:

  • Primary osteoporosis: This type of osteoporosis does not have an identifiable cause. It's the most common type of osteoporosis, most often occurring in postmenopausal women and older men.

  • Secondary osteoporosis: Secondary osteoporosis, on the other hand, does have an identifiable cause. This can include other conditions, such as endocrine diseases, liver disease, and kidney disease, as well as the use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids, antiseizure medications, and proton pump inhibitors.

Osteoporosis symptoms

In addition to bone fractures, symptoms of osteoporosis can include:

  • Lower back pain

  • Stooped posture

  • Loss of height over time

  • Shortness of breath

Is osteoporosis a disability?

No, the SSA does not consider osteoporosis a disability on its own. However, osteoporosis can qualify for disability benefits if you're unable to work because of it, especially if you have other qualifying conditions.

Osteoporosis does not have its own listing in the SSA Blue Book, a compendium of qualifying conditions, but the SSA considers osteoporosis alongside other musculoskeletal disorders in Section 1.00.

Osteoporosis is a disability under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) if it's substantially limiting. Passed in 1990, the ADA is a law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

Can you get disability for osteoporosis?

Yes, osteoporosis can qualify for disability benefits if it prevents you from being able to work. Even if your osteoporosis meets the SSA criteria, it can be easier to win benefits if you apply with more than one qualifying condition. For instance, it is common for people with osteoporosis also to have the following conditions;

To learn more about these conditions and others, refer to our main guide on conditions that qualify for disability.

We've helped 766 people with bone fractures apply for disability benefits.

Criteria for getting disability with osteoporosis

While the SSA does not have a listing dedicated to osteoporosis, it's still possible that osteoporosis can qualify for disability if it's severe enough to prevent you from being able to work. To prove that, you'll need to offer relevant medical documentation and records, such as:

  • Medical imaging, such as an MRI, CT Scan, X-ray, or DXA scan

  • Notes from your doctor documenting physical exams and checkups

  • A medical opinion on your bone density from a relevant expert

  • Records of any medications you've taken to manage pain or side effects

  • Records from any physical therapy sessions you've had

  • Documentation of any need for an assistive device, like a cane or walker

  • Reports on bone damage and/or spinal condition

Pathologic fractures

When weighing whether osteoporosis qualifies for disability benefits, the SSA may specifically examine any pathologic fractures you've suffered, meaning bone breaks that are a result of your condition. The criteria to qualify for disability benefits with pathologic fractures are as follows:

  1. You must have suffered fractures on three separate instances within a 12-month period.

  2. You must have limitations in musculoskeletal functioning due to your osteoporosis that are expected to last for at least 12 consecutive months.

  3. You must have at least one of the following:

  • A documented medical need for a walker, bilateral canes or bilateral crutches, or a wheeled and seated mobility device that requires both hands to use

  • A documented medical need for the use of a one-handed, hand-held assistive device that requires you to use your other upper extremity, alongside an inability to use one upper extremity to start, continue, and complete work-related activities on your own that involve fine and gross movements 

  • An inability to use both upper extremities that prevents you from starting, continuing, and completing work-related tasks on your own that involve fine and gross movements

5 questions to ask yourself before applying

Sometimes, it's hard to know your likelihood of winning disability benefits. To help you gauge your odds, run through the following questions. If you're able to answer “yes” to most of them, your osteoporosis is more likely to qualify for Social Security disability benefits:

  1. Have you undergone diagnostic testing to confirm your diagnosis of osteoporosis?

  2. Have you suffered a major fracture of a bone like a tibia, femur, or pelvis?

  3. Has it taken you more than 12 months to recover from a bone fracture?

  4. Have you required surgery or physical therapy because of a bone fracture?

  5. Do you need to use assistive devices, such as a walker, cane, or crutches, due to symptoms or injuries related to your osteoporosis?

My osteoporosis meets the criteria. Now what?

If you meet the criteria, the next step is to apply for disability benefits. Given how long the application process can take, aim to start as soon as possible.

Not sure whether your osteoporosis satisfies SSA requirements? The following advice can help you decide how to move forward:

  • Apply now if:

    • You've undergone diagnostic testing to confirm your diagnosis and have documentation of the resulting limitations

    • Your symptoms make it impossible to work and persist even with treatment

    • You have another health condition that qualifies for disability

  • Consider waiting and applying later if:

    • Your symptoms are moderate or manageable with treatment

    • You can continue working for now, even if your osteoporosis may force you to stop down the road

  • Probably don’t apply if:

    • You're able to continue working in some capacity despite your osteoporosis

    • You're earning over $1,550 per month (the income limit as of 2024)

What type of benefits should I apply for?

There are two types of disability benefits you might apply for:

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is meant for individuals who have worked and paid taxes for at least five out of the last 10 years.

  2. Supplemental Security Income: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for people who have not worked much or at all and have a low income (about $900 per month or less) and few assets, like savings and other valuable property.

Both programs include health insurance: Medicare for SSDI and Medicaid for SSI. To learn more about how these programs diverge and who they intend to serve, check out our article on the differences between SSDI and SSI.

How much is a disability check for osteoporosis?

The average disability check for osteoporosis is $1,557.95 per month. But you could receive less than that or more — the maximum monthly amount you can get for osteoporosis as of 2024 is $3,822 for SSDI or $943 for SSI.

These maximums will apply regardless of how many conditions you end up applying with, or which condition ultimately qualifies you for disability. The amount you'll receive is determined differently depending on whether you get SSDI or SSI. SSDI is calculated based on your work history, whereas how SSI is calculated depends on your other income sources.

Estimate your disability benefit amount in just a few steps

We'll use the Social Security Administration's formula to estimate your monthly benefit.

monthly check


What if my osteoporosis doesn’t meet the criteria?

If your osteoporosis doesn't meet the SSA's criteria to qualify for disability, you can still apply and see what happens. Just remember you will need to prove that you're unable to work due to your osteoporosis.

The process of qualifying also isn't easy — even for those whose osteoporosis checks off SSA criteria. Just 20% of applicants are successful on their first attempt. It pays off to keep trying, though. You can appeal your initial denial, and the chances of winning a disability appeal are significantly higher.

In the meantime, for anyone who needs financial or legal assistance, Atticus has gathered resources for people with disabilities.

Get help with your disability application

To save time and get expert advice on your situation, consider taking our 2-minute disability benefits quiz. If you qualify for disability, we'll reach out to learn more about your situation.

We can also introduce you to a qualified disability lawyer if you want one. Working with a disability lawyer increases your chances of winning benefits by three times, and there are no upfront costs. You only pay your lawyer a one-time, capped fee if they win you benefits. There are no upfront or ongoing costs.

Related resources

What Medical Conditions Qualify for Social Security Disability? (Updated 2023)

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By Jackie Jakab

Compassionate Allowance List 2023 (And What To Do If Your Condition is On It)

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By Jackie Jakab

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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