January 28, 2015

Peripheral Neuropathy and Your Social Security Disability Claim

I represent many of my Indiana neighbors who cannot work because they suffer from peripheral neuropathy in their arms, legs, hands, or feet.  Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves that relay messages from other parts of your body to your spinal cord and brain are damaged.  The effects of that damage can have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to function in the workplace.

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While peripheral neuropathy occurs in conjunction with a variety of medical conditions, the most common cause I see in my Indiana Social Security Disability Law Practice is diabetes.  Diabetic neuropathy can occur when consistently high blood sugar levels damage the nerves that transmit pain and other types of signals to the brain.

My clients who suffer from peripheral neuropathy in their legs and feet often have difficulty standing and walking because they have trouble feeling their feet or because standing for too long causes pain.  The inability to stand and walk for at least half of a work day typically means that a person is limited to sedentary (sitting) occupations; people who have been told by their doctors that they must also elevate their legs when sitting to prevent swelling and pain are often prevented from performing sedentary work as well.  Additionally, pain, tingling, and numbness often prevent my clients from being able to concentrate long enough to meet the demands of full-time work.

Peripheral neuropathy also occurs in the hands.  Hand pain, weakness, and numbness can be quite disabling, as the majority of occupations require the ability to perform fine and gross manipulation with the hands.  People with peripheral neuropathy in their hands may find themselves unable to do things most of us take for granted like writing, typing, buttoning, zipping, and grasping even the lightest of objects.  In many of the Social Security Administration (SSA) Appeals Hearing I have attended, a Vocational Expert (VE) has testified that very few, if any, occupations are available to people who are unable to use their hands more than occasionally for fine or gross manipulation.

As with most disabling conditions, medical testing confirming the existence of peripheral neuropathy can greatly enhance your chances of winning your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claim.  For example, electromyograms (EMGs) and nerve conduction studies can show a Medical Expert (ME) and/or an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) the severity of the neuropathies in different areas of your body.

If you are denied Social Security Disability for peripheral neuropathy or any other condition that prevents you from working, it may be in your best interest to appeal that decision. It may be helpful to talk to an attorney or representative to make sure you meet all the appeal deadlines and provide the SSA with all the information you need to prove that you are disabled.

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