CPP Disability Guide for Chronic Back Pain, Ruptured Disc, & Spinal Pain

This CPP Disability guide focuses on chronic back pain and is part of a 3 part series including chronic joint and nerve pain. We cover the application process, eligible, common reasons for denial, and more.
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May 4, 2021 by dcci

Back pain is among the most common chronic conditions in Canada, with over a third of all Canadians who say their back pain limits their work and daily activities.

In this article, we will focus on those Canadians who suffer from chronic back pain that is so debilitating they can no longer work and therefore require government assistance in the form of CPP Disability.

Many conditions can lead to chronic back pain, like a ruptured disc, nerve damage, or scoliosis. While most back pain is as minor as a burning sensation within a specific area of the back, it can become as severe as preventing someone from walking and caring for themselves.

When your chronic back pain, ruptured disk or spinal pain has become so severe and debilitating to a point where you are no longer able to remain in the workforce i.e. you can no longer work at all, you should be looking into the Canadian Pension Plan Disability Benefits (CPP Disability program) to provide you with financial assistance.

Not many Canadians are aware of the CPP Disability program, but ALL Canadians pay into it when contributing to their Canadian Pension Plan on every paycheck. The CPP Disability program is part of the CPP, and its purpose is to provide financial help to Canadians who can no longer work due to an impairment.

If your chronic back pain is severe enough and your medical practitioner has deemed you unfit for work, you should start the CPP disability application process today.

We created this article to highlight the CPP Disability program and how it assists those with chronic back pain, spinal pain or ruptured disk. Throughout this article, we will cover:

  • What chronic back pain is
  • If your chronic back pain is eligible for CPP Disability
  • How to apply for CPP Disability for chronic back pain
  • What to do if your CPP Disability application is denied

This article will try to explain the CPP Disability program through the lens of someone applying for chronic back pain. However, to learn more about the CPP Disability program, we suggest reading our comprehensive CPP Disability guide, which breaks down each step of the process in-depth.

DISCLAIMER: This guide is meant to provide general information about the CPP Disability program to those suffering from chronic back pain, but it is not meant to replace your physician or other official information. Please use it accordingly and always refer to your doctor or Service Canada for specific information.

What is Chronic Back Pain?

Chronic back pain is typically caused by the discs and vertebrae of the back deteriorating, which irritates the nerve roots in the spine. Early on, no symptoms will be present, but the pain will develop and spread to adjacent structures around the irritated or impaired nerves in time.

Chronic back pain refers to any back pain that lasts three months or longer that does not improve with treatment. It can be as minor as occasional numbness in the limbs or as severe as complete debilitation due to not being able to walk or completely control their nervous system.

Some of the things that can increase chronic back pain are age, obesity, bad posture, sitting or standing for too long, injury, improperly lifting heavy items or other activities that cause undue stress.

Throughout this article, we are going to touch on two of the most common reasons for chronic back pain, those being:

  • Ruptured Disc
  • Spinal/Back Pain

If you are experiencing chronic back pain but can still perform your usual activities and retain employment, this article will not apply to you. However, if the pain caused by your chronic back pain has become debilitating to the point that you can no longer function at work, you may be eligible for CPP Disability.

What is CPP Disability

In the following section, we will provide you with a basic overview of the CPP Disability program, but there is much more to it. If you want to dig deeper, you should check out our Ultimate CPP Disability Guide, as it provides a complete overview of the CPP Disability program and everything to do with it.

CPP Disability is a program within the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) that assists those who can no longer work due to an impairment. In summation, the Canada Pension Plan is a retirement savings plan available to Canadians 65 or older who have contributed to it throughout their time in the workforce. The CPP Disability program is linked to CPP and was made for those under 65 who can no longer work due to a physical or mental impairment.

It is essential to know that the most crucial factor behind the approval of your application comes down to the severity and prolonged nature of your impairment:

  • Severity comes down to if your condition prevents you from retaining substantially gainful employment.
  • Prolonged means that your condition has been present for a long, continued, or indefinite duration of time that prevents you from returning to work.

How Much Can I Receive from CPP Disability?

The amount received from CPP Disability is different for each individual as the benefit is based on the overall contribution you have made to the CPP throughout your working years. In most cases, the more you have contributed to CPP, the more you will receive on your monthly CPP Disability payment.

Here is a quick look at what you can receive if you qualify to receive the CPP Disability:

  • A one-time retroactive payment that increases the longer you have been out of work for up to 18 months. This is calculated by taking how much you receive from a monthly CPP Disability payment multiplied by the number of months you have been out of work.
  • A monthly payment of up to $1,413.66 (updated 2021), or more if you have children.

To get an idea of how much you can receive for your CPP Disability monthly payment, check your Statement of Contributions to the CPP by either using your My Service Canada Account, or contact Service Canada by mail or phone.

Does Chronic Back Pain Qualify You for CPP Disability?

Chronic back pain is linked to many debilitating conditions such as scoliosis, bulging, slipped or ruptured disc, osteoarthritis, and sciatica and is the leading cause of disability globally. Chronic back pain can range from mild to throbbing aches that can be recurring, constant, or can worsen after exercise or sitting/standing for too long.

While having chronic back pain alone does not qualify you for CPP Disability, you may be eligible if the pain is considered severe or prolonged enough to prevent you from working.

Some of the back pain conditions that qualify for disability are:

  • Degenerative disc
  • Bulging/slipped disc
  • Lumbar radiculopathy
  • Sacroiliac joint disease
  • Sciatica
  • Fractured spine
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Spinal stenosis

This section breaks down some of the most common back pain conditions that qualify for CPP Disability.

Common Chronic Back Pain Conditions

Many different conditions or situations can cause someone to experience chronic back pain. However, in this section, we will be focusing primarily on ones that could become debilitating enough to prevent you from working and seeking government help with things like CPP Disability.

Spinal Pain

Most spinal pain occurs in the lumbar and cervical region; it is also one of the most common reasons people leave the workforce. Typically, spinal pain is the result of lumbar muscle strains and sprains.

Though temporary spinal/back pain may require you to take a few days off work, chronic spinal/back pain may cause you to leave your job entirely. In some situations, prolonged spinal pain, if not treated properly, can cause paralysis, so it is recommended that you seek out the proper treatment immediately.

How is Spinal Pain Debilitating?

Having chronic spinal/back pain can make many occupations much more difficult and painful. The spine is connected to your entire body, so spinal pain can be very debilitating and make tasks such as sitting, standing and lifting objects painful to perform.
Any job that requires you to sit or stand for prolonged periods can be detrimental to spinal/back pain, so you will have to be very selective about which jobs you take on.

Ruptured Disc

When the spinal column or vertebrae begins to tear, or the discs protrude, they can pinch nearby spinal nerves – when this happens, it is called a herniated, slipped, or ruptured disc.

Ruptured discs can cause severe lower back pain and can even cause shooting pain to go down the back of your legs. While symptoms caused by a ruptured disc will alleviate or disappear within a month or so, surgery may be necessary if symptoms persist.

How is Ruptured Disc Debilitating?

A ruptured disc is a spinal/back condition considered a disability in Canada, especially if symptoms attached to it are severe or prolonged. A ruptured disc can cause severe pain, making even walking a painful task.

If symptoms caused by a ruptured disc persist for more than a month, most, if not all, jobs will be inaccessible as they require you to sit/stand for prolonged periods or perform repetitive labour. However, if symptoms caused by a ruptured disc subside, you can perform any job that doesn’t require strenuous labour.

How Do I Get Approved for CPP Disability for My Chronic Back Pain Condition?

When filing your claim, you must provide as much information regarding your chronic back pain as possible. A great way to gather information is to take all available tests to prove your claim’s legitimacy, such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans, which can pinpoint psoriatic-related symptoms.

Being diagnosed with the condition that causes chronic back pain is not enough to have your CPP Disability application approved. You need to provide substantial proof that the symptoms you experience are severe or prolonged enough to make returning to work jeopardizing your health. The most common reason people are denied CPP Disability for chronic back pain is not enough information about your condition’s severity or prolonged nature.

When looking at your claim, adjudicators will look at your symptoms’ effect on your work, your prior treatment for your condition, and your willingness to continue to work. Receiving the correct treatment and therapy is another deciding factor to your claim’s approval, so seeking out all options is a must when building a strong case.

Applying for CPP Disability for Chronic Back Pain

Before starting the CPP Disability application process, you must first check if you fall within the basic criteria. To be considered eligible for CPP Disability, you must be:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 65.
  • Have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan in four of the last six years or, if you contributed to CPP for 25 years or more, three of the previous six years.
  • Can prove that your physical or mental disability is considered severe or prolonged enough to prevent you from working.

If you fall within these guidelines, you can go ahead with the application process.

This section will touch on the CPP Disability application process; however, for everything you need to know about the process and the CPP Disability program, check out our comprehensive Canadian Pension Plan Disability guide.

To applying for CPP Disability, Service Canada will need you first to fill out two forms, those being:

These forms require basic personal info and info regarding your CPP contributions, disability, medical practitioner, work history, and more, which you then must sign. The forms also provide consent to Service Canada to view your personal medical information.

With these two forms, you should also include as much information as you can regarding your chronic back pain, from diagnosis, treatments and medications used to treat it, your attempt to continue working, and more.

Once you have finished the forms, go to your local Service Canada office to find out where to submit your application. Use Service Canada’s Office Locator to find the location closest to you.

We have also written a step-by-step guide for the CPP Disability Application process that you can use for reference.

What If I am Denied for CPP Disability for Chronic Back Pain

It is important to note that around 60% of all new CPP Disability applications get denied and that there are limited opportunities to appeal Service Canada’s decision therefore it is imperative that you approach the appeal process carefully.

In this section, we will briefly cover the denial and appeal process but if you were denied, we encourage you to check out our CPP Disability Denial and Appeal Overview article covering each step of the appeal process.

The CPP Disability appeal process has three steps, those being:

Why Was My CPP Disability Application Denied?

More often than not, denial is due to a lack of information about your condition, so you will need to rebuild your claim, covering anything you may have missed before appealing the decision.

Throughout this section, we will cover some of the most common reasons CPP Disability applications are denied, so you know what to avoid when navigating the application process.

Disability Not Considered Severe and Prolonged

As discussed previously, Service Canada considers a condition severe if it prevents you from retaining substantially gainful employment and prolonged if your condition has an indeterminate recovery date.

Your condition must meet both of these definitions for your application to be approved.

Late CPP Disability Application

One of the eligibility factors for CPP Disability is that you’ve contributed to CPP for 4 out of the 6 previous years from the time of your application. Your application could be denied if you submitted it long enough after your injury or disability that you no longer fall under this criteria.

There is still a chance that you could be approved. To learn more, check out the Late Applicant Provision section in our CPP Disability guide.

Not Enough Info on Medical Conditions And Employability

To be approved for CPP Disability, you must prove to Service Canada that you cannot work due to your condition. To prove this, you must provide extensive medical evidence highlighting your condition’s severity and prolonged nature and how it prevents you from retaining employment. Without substantial evidence proving this, your application will most likely be denied.

Not Enough Contributions to CPP

One of the three pillars that make up the eligibility criteria for CPP Disability is significant contributions to CPP. Because of this, you will be denied if Service Canada doesn’t think you’ve made enough contributions to the CPP. However, in some circumstances, you may still be eligible for some CPP Disability payments.

You can learn further about these in our Reasons CPP Disability Applications are Denied guide.

Credibility boosters are a great way to ensure the approval of your appeal, so in the following sections, we will cover different steps you can take to make your claim more credible.

If you’ve been denied and seek additional assistance through the appeal and denial process, contact Disability Credit Canada today. We will guide you through the appeal and denial process with our extensive knowledge and experience.

Increase Credibility on Your CPP Disability Chronic Back Pain Application

While the best way to ensure your application’s approval is through extensive evidence about your condition and employment details, you and your claim must also seem credible when presenting this evidence. Credibility will give your application an additional boost.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS: The more credible you are, the more likely you’ll be approved, even if your evidence is as substantial.

To help make your claim more credible, we have made a list of credibility boosters:

  • Not providing information on time
  • Inconsistent medical records and statements
  • Criticizing others in your claim
  • Arguing with doctors over your diagnosis
  • Filing biased, negative, or unprofessional complaints
  • Being aggressive, sarcastic or confrontational
  • Attempting to appear like an expert
  • Excuses or problem blaming

How to Hurt the Credibility on Your CPP Disability Chronic Back Pain Application

Just as having credibility can boost your chance of approval, not having any can increase your chances of being denied, regardless of how extensive your evidence is.

To help you avoid killing credibility in your case, here is a list of things to avoid:

  • Making an apparent attempt to keep working
  • Having your statements match your medical records
  • Being responsible for your claim
  • Having a cooperative and respectful claim
  • Encouraging and following advice from experts

Chronic back pain can arise due to a myriad of reasons. Accidents, conditions, old age, and more can cause chronic back pain, and in time, it can take a toll on a person’s work and personal life. Whether it is a ruptured disc, spinal pain, or scoliosis, chronic back pain is a significant issue that affects countless Canadians.

However, CPP Disability provides additional security if you are stricken with chronic back pain at an inopportune time and cannot return to work. CPP Disability provides eligible Canadians monthly benefits to supplement their income to leave the workforce and prevent further aggravation of their impairment.

At Disability Credit Canada, we have helped hundreds of Canadians with their CPP Disability Benefits application. Our extensive experience and knowledge of the CPP Disability program is second to none. Once we take on your case, we will leave no stone unturned to get your CPP Disability application approved.

We offer free assessments and work on a NO WIN – NO FEE basis, meaning we only get paid if you do and are incentivized to bring you the most out of your refund!

Call Disability Credit Canada at 1 844-800-6020 for a free, no-obligation assessment today!

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