The Social Security Administration (SSA) can determine whether or not you can receive disability payments for the after-effects of a stroke. While there are two separate disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the medical requirements to receive payments are the same. The mental and physical residuals from a stroke can make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain full time employment.
Your first step is to file an initial application. Some individuals who have suffered a stroke may have difficulty even starting the application process due to difficulties with communication, memory, and typing or writing. Get help from a friend or family member to start the application if you need to; Social Security recommends that you designate a “third party” whom they can contact if they need additional information. The application process is designed by Social Security to be completed by an individual without the assistance of an attorney or representative. However, I have helped many clients file an initial application because they preferred to have the help of someone familiar with the process. For someone dealing with memory loss, difficulty speaking, and problems getting around, it can be helpful to have an attorney or representative take charge of the case to make sure everything gets submitted on time and to patiently assist with the completion of Social Security’s forms and questionnaires.
How does the SSA evaluate individuals suffering from a stroke when determining disability? First, they decide whether you “meet a listing.” The SSA publishes a Listing of Impairments that details the information they consider for each specific condition. Stroke is covered in the listing for neurological impairments under Section 11.04. What happens if you do not meet or equal the listing for stroke? Social Security then evaluates whether your residual functional capacity (RFC), both physically and mentally, prevents you from working. In other words, the SSA determines what kinds of work-related activities you are still able to do with the limitations you experience as after-effects of your stroke. Physically, a stroke may affect your ability to walk, especially if you need to use a cane to help you balance. It may affect your ability sit or stand long enough to complete a full work day due to fatigue or weakness. You may have difficulty using your hands and fingers to hold on to objects or to pick up small items. You may not be able to hear well enough or speak clearly enough to perform some types of work. Mentally, a stroke may affect your cognitive abilities, making it difficult for you to remember instructions or make work-related decisions. You may not be able to stay focused on a task for very long. Each of these limitations eliminates certain categories of jobs available to you because they prevent you from meeting the physical and mental requirements of the work. You may have a few severe limitations that keep you from working. On the other hand, your symptoms may not be as severe individually, but you might have so many different types of limitations that putting them all together prevents you from doing all the things you must do to maintain full-time employment. If Social Security finds that the physical and mental limitations caused by your symptoms prevent you from performing a significant range of work, you should be found disabled.
If you have suffered from a stroke, it may be in your best interest to apply for Social Security disability as soon as possible. The application and appeals process can take a long time. The sooner you get the application started, the better.