This post discusses disability for Central Cord Syndrome. If you or someone you care for is unable to work due to Central Cord Syndrome read on for how Social Security will evaluate your claim for disability.

Types of Social Security Disability Benefits

SSA offers two types of benefits for disability claimants: Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is based on the credits from the work you have done in your life while SSI is a need based program.

You must be found disabled under SSA’s Five Step Sequential Evaluation before you are entitled to either benefit. The first step is to apply for benefits online or at your local SSA office. If you are unable to work due to your Central Cord Syndrome apply for SSI and/or SSDI benefits as soon as possible. Delay may cause you to lose benefits!

What is Central Cord Syndrome?

According to NIH, Central Cord Syndrome is the most common form of incomplete spinal cord injury characterized by impairment in the arms and hands and to a lesser extent in the legs. The brain’s ability to send and receive signals to and from parts of the body below the site of injury is reduced but not entirely blocked. This syndrome is associated with damage to the large nerve fibers that carry information directly from the cerebral cortex to the spinal cord.

Central Cord Syndrome can be caused by trauma to the neck or from herniated cervical discs. In addition, as we age, the spine weakens which can narrow the spinal column and lead to spinal cord compression. This compression (or trauma) can result in nerve damage. The extent of the nerve damage determines the extent of loss of function. There can be total loss of function in the hands, arms and legs. Younger individuals generally seem to recover better.

How will SSA evaluate my claim for disability based on Central Cord Syndrome?

The first question to be asked is: how severe are your symptoms? Quick recovery may eliminate a claim for disability benefits due to the duration requirement. But if recovery is slow (or non-existent) you may win your Social Security Disability cases in one of three ways.

Please note that as of April 2, 2021, Listing 1.04 no longer exists and has been replaced with the Listings found here: After we receive additional guidance from SSA we will alter this post to accommodate for the new listing. 

The Social Security Administration can evaluate your case under Listing 1.04 Disorders of the Spine. To meet this listing you need compromise of the spinal cord with pain, limitation of motion and motor loss with sensory/reflex loss or arachnoiditis. In my practice, I have very rarely seen arachnoiditis.  SSA defines loss of function as “the inability to ambulate effectively on a sustained basis for any reason, including pain associated with the underlying musculoskeletal impairment, or the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively on a sustained basis for any reason, including pain associated with the underlying musculoskeletal impairment.” In simple terms, if you are unable to walk without significant aid or unable to use your hands you may meet this listing.

In my practice, I find that being approved on the Medical Vocational Guidelines is more common than meeting the above listing. The Medical Vocational Guidelines (aka “Grids) direct a finding of disabled if you are of a certain age and limited to sedentary or light exertion. Unfortunately, the Grids only help people over the age of 50 (or those aged 45-49 if Illiterate or unable to communicate in English). Another way that SSA may find you disabled is based on the combination of your impairments. For example, if you have depression, the combination of your central cord syndrome and depression may eliminate the possibility of work for you.

Can I do anything to help win my Central Cord Syndrome and SSDI/SSI case?

The most important thing you can do for your case is to go to the doctor and follow his/her advice. I advise my clients that doing everything that they can to get well is the most practical way to win. Also having an attorney who is NC State Bar Board Certified, familiar with your impairments and you helps! The Bishop Law Firm represents Social Security Disability clients in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Cary, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Smithfield, Louisburg, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids and surrounding areas in North Carolina. Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095. 

Also read Overview of the Disability Process