The World Health Organization estimates that up to 1 billion people within the world’s
population suffer from a neurological disorder. Neurological disorders are diseases of the brain, spine, and the nerves that connect them. Neurological disorders are a distinct form of medical condition recognized by the Social Security Administration, and qualifying applicants are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Some common neurological disorders are:
Spinal Cord Disorders
Traumatic Brain Injury
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
According to the Social Security Administration, if you have a neurological disorder that makes it impossible to maintain full-time employment, you qualify for Social Security Disability. As with all disabilities, the disorder must be long-term (expected to last more than a year or result in death). Before disability can be determined, the Social Security Administration will look at both medical and non-medical evidence (signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings) to evaluate your neurological disorder. For example, individuals who suffer from diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy and other severe impairments tend to experience disabling pain and other symptoms that interfere with their ability to work.
A neurological disorder may meet the requirements of the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments. The Listing of Impairments provides Social Security Administration officials with the ability to determine if a person has a disability based on medical criteria only. Each impairment is accompanied by its own specific criteria for the medical evaluation of patients. Individuals who suffer from epilepsy can meet the assigned listing by showing one of the following: Grand mal seizures occurring more than once per month despite compliance with treatment, daytime episodes or nocturnal episodes which have residual effects which can be shown to be major interferences to your daily activities, or Petit Mal seizures that occur more than once per week despite treatment for three months. The seizures must cause you to lose consciousness, alter your state of awareness, or cause behavioral issues which interfere with your daily activities. An individual who suffers from Myasthenia Gravis may qualify for Social Security benefits if it causes significant problems breathing, swallowing, or speaking despite undergoing medical treatment. An individual can also qualify under this listing if he or she suffers from severe muscle weakness when repetitive activities are performed. The listing for Parkinson’s Syndrome requires either sustained disturbance of fine motor skills, sustained disturbance of gross motor skills, sustained disturbance of gait, rigidity, or tremors in two or more extremities. Most other neurological conditions are evaluated based whether they meet the criteria for epilepsy or one of the following criteria: Loss of ability to speak or communicate based on the neurological impairment, or Lack of motor function is two extremities (hands or feet) which cause irregular gait or significant difficulty using your hands for fine and gross motor skills.
When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, you will need to show that you have been under the care of a physician, that you are following medical recommendations and taking any prescribed medications, and that despite this, you’re still unable to work on an ongoing basis. The SSA will take into account your medical history, examination findings, laboratory tests, and the results of imaging, such as x-rays, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electroencephalography (EEG). The results of the imaging must support the evaluation of the disorder.
Because most neurological diseases are treated with prescription medication, applicants will need to show that they are taking the medication as directed and are still not feeling long-term relief from symptoms. This may include submitting to a drug test which will determine if a sufficient amount of the medication is present in your bloodstream. The blood test may prove that you have been taking the medication regularly. In a perfect world, your physician would be able to record and report your symptoms. However, seizures and other neurological disorder symptoms don’t
follow a schedule. Therefore, your physician may have not actually witnessed the symptoms or episodes. Despite their authority, they cannot always attest to the severity of your situation.
Accordingly, non-medical evidence will also be considered. This includes statements from your family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances about your physical or mental impairment, restrictions, daily activities, and efforts to work. Your own statements will also be taken into consideration. It is also recommended that you keep a journal and record your symptoms and activities over at least a two-month period or longer. This is especially important regarding neurological disorders that are episodic in nature, such as seizures. Because most people who suffer from these types of neurological disorders often cannot observe themselves when they are having an episode, it is important to have others who have witnessed the symptoms or episodes document their observations as well.
Unfortunately, neurological disorders, by their very nature, can be more difficult to diagnose and to quantify than other types of disabilities. Therefore, the documentation necessary to verify some of these conditions may be difficult to ascertain. Hence, some individuals who suffer from a neurological conditions may go untreated longer than those with other types of disabilities.
While the above medical and non-medical evidence can be applied to all neurological disorders, each is unique, and some are easier to diagnose than others. To that end, the Social Security Administration will evaluate each disability application based on the disorder itself, looking at the qualifying factors such as disorganized motor functions, physical and mental impairments, and the ability to communicate.