Surgery, Therapy Fail to Bring Recovery; Benefits Sought

 

Kenneth Barr had earned a degree in electrical engineering and opened his own electrical contracting business. At the age of 28, the married father of three felt a snap in his lower back while lifting a 300-pound manhole cover with a hook. He developed pain, spasms, and couldn’t move his leg. A microdiskectomy on the L4-L5 and L5-S1 section of his spine was performed, followed by physical therapy, sports medicine therapy and pool therapy. Barr continued to have back pain. The following year, an MRI revealed that the L5-S1 disk had re-ruptured. Two nerve root block procedures failed to provide relief. Barr was experiencing back pain, limited range of motion, difficulty walking, and sleep loss. A second surgery was performed to remove adhesions and part of a disk. After the surgery, Barr had more physical therapy.

Over the next few years, Barr experienced pain in one leg, difficulty sitting and sleeping and the inability to be weight on one leg. An MRI and a diskogram both showed degenerative disk disease and a bulging L5-S1 disk. When physical therapy failed to provide relief, Barr underwent IDET (intradiscal electrothermal therapy), where a heat coil inserted into his spine was used to kill the nerve endings that carry pain. Barr continued to have pain.

At age 32, Barr had another surgery, an L4-5 L5-S1 fusion with the insertion of a spinal stimulator. The following year another surgery was performed, a two-level fusion using a screw plate, cages and a bone graft. Four years later, surgery to stabilize L4-5 L5-S1 was performed, followed a few months later with the installation of an epidural electrode for stimulation.

A few years later, after exhausting his Workers’ Compensation benefits, Barr turned to Attorney Neil H. Good for representation for Social Security Disability benefits. The case went to a hearing at the Social Security Administration. In his pre-hearing memorandum, Attorney Good detailed Barr’s history of surgeries and therapies. He stated that Barr had failed back surgery syndrome. Despite numerous surgical and non-surgical efforts, Barr had not gotten full relief or recovery and was now at the point where no further surgeries were recommended. He continued to have chronic intractable back pain, limited range of motion, and difficulty walking. He could not tolerate sitting or standing for periods of time. He was unable to lift and had difficulty with self-care.

The Administrative Law Judge agreed: “It is clear the claimant’s back condition is the result of failed back syndrome … the claimant does not have the capacity for even a limited range of sedentary exertion, on a sustained basis.” Kenneth Barr was awarded Social Security Disability benefits.