November 3, 2015

Social Security Disability Payments for Neurological Impairments

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There are many medical conditions that can so severely affect an individual’s mental and physical functioning as to qualify that person for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. In my Indianapolis Social Security disability practice I represent many Indiana residents suffering from neurological impairments. Many of those clients suffer from a combination of mental and physical symptoms that prevent them from performing what the Social Security Administration (SSA) calls Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA); in other words, they cannot work a full-time job.

In cases involving adults with neurological impairments, the SSA will first consult the listings in Section 11 of its Listing of Impairments. The Listing of Impairments is a guideline published by the Social Security Administration outlining certain criteria that, if met, are considered to be proof that the claimant is disabled. The conditions addressed in the Listings are as follows:
Epilepsy (convulsive or non-convulsive)
Central nervous system vascular accident
• Benign brain tumors (malignant brain tumors are evaluated under listings for cancer)
• Parkinsonian syndrome
• Cerebral palsy
• Spinal cord or nerve root lesions
• Multiple sclerosis
• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
• Anterior poliomyelitis
• Myasthenia gravis
• Muscular dystrophy
• Subacute combined cord degeneration
• Other degenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s chorea, Friedreich’s ataxia, or spino-cerebellar degeneration
Cerebral trauma
• Syringomyelia

Most of the criteria in the Listings for these impairments require evidence of the following:
(a) A medical diagnosis and appropriate medical testing
(b) Sensory, motor, and/or speech dysfunction
(c) Compliance with prescribed treatment

See the specific listings for the requirements for each particular impairment.

In my experience, a person whose diagnosis and symptoms meet the criteria of the listings should be found disabled in the early stages of the disability process, as long as appropriate medical documentation is available. However, some of the criteria can be somewhat subjective. For example, there is no objective testing to prove fatigue in multiple sclerosis patients, and many of the listings require “significant” impairment in functioning, which is not a quantifiable measurement. Therefore, it is possible that you may have a neurological impairment addressed by the listing but still be found not to meet the listing.

What happens if you do not precisely meet or equal a neurological listing? Actually, many or maybe even most of my clients win their disability claim another way. If you do not meet a Listing, the SSA will determine whether your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is too low to work a full time job. Therefore, if your neurological impairment keeps you from being able to sit, stand, walk, lift, or concentrate on a tasks at a level required in competitive, full-time work, Social Security can find you disabled. Many individuals with neurological impairments may suffer from fatigue, seizures, weakness in their arms and legs, and cognitive issues that result in the inability to work full-time.

As always, objective medical testing is needed to show the SSA the severity of a neurological disorder. In general, the SSA will want to see treatment notes from a neurologist to substantiate a severe condition that prevents you from working. Medical source statements from your treating physicians can be helpful to show the SSA that you meet or equal a Listing or that your capacity to work is so low you simply cannot work a full time job. My office is proud to help our Indiana neighbors, and we can answer many questions by telephone or with an in-office visit.

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