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What Neurological Disorders Qualify for SSDI Benefits?

Millions of Americans are diagnosed with neurological disorders, many of which are quite serious and can be even be debilitating. If you were diagnosed with a neurological disorder and your condition prevents you from working, it is possible you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. However, to qualify, you need to take certain steps to secure approval from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Neurological Impairments and Disability Benefits

When it comes to applying for disability benefits, it is important to assess whether your neurological disorder or condition is one deemed eligible for these benefits. The SSA provides a list of neurological conditions that could serve as a basis for a disability benefits application. Here is a sample of some of the conditions that could be deemed eligible for disability benefits:  

  • Epilepsy 
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Migraine headaches 
  • Fibromyalgia

Please be advised that the conditions listed above are just a sample and not an exhaustive list. There are a myriad of other conditions that impact the central and peripheral nervous system which could be sufficient to enable an individual to apply for disability benefits.

Diagnosis is Not Enough

If you are diagnosed with a neurological condition, it is important to understand that the diagnosis is not the end. In many ways, the diagnosis is the beginning of the process. This is because each neurological condition has its own specific set of criteria that must be satisfied to be granted disability benefits.

Standard for Eligibility

It is important to understand that the standard used by the SSA when assessing whether your neurological condition is eligible for disability benefits is that your condition must be so severe as to prohibit you from engaging in work activities.

Reduced Capacity and Qualifying for Disability Benefits

If you were diagnosed with a neurological condition that is not on the SSA’s list, or you may not meet the specific requirements to qualify under the SSA’s disability listing, do not give up hope. There is a possibility that you may still be eligible to secure disability benefits. For example, if your neurological condition has impacted certain abilities and skills at a certain level, in the context of the workplace, the SSA could still approve disability benefits based on your reduced capacity to engage in work.  

When it comes to assessing a disability benefits application, the SSA is focused on how your condition has impacted your abilities, particularly whether you are actually able to engage in certain work activities. The SSA makes this assessment by assigning you a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) which will play a major role in the decision on whether to approve or deny your disability benefits application.

Types of RFC

There are two major RFCs used by the SSA when assessing an applicant. There is the physical RFC and the mental RFC. The physical RFC will provide an indicator on whether you are physically able to engage in any type of work. For example, the score will take into consideration whether you can stand on your feet for six or eight hours The physical RFC will also consider whether you are able to engage in sedentary work. On the other hand, your mental RFC will provide an indication on the level of impairment you have in multiple areas, including: 

  • Your ability to pay attention
  • Your ability to complete complex work tasks
  • Your demeanor while working with others
  • Your ability to perform in a fast-paced and stressful work environment

Once your RFC scores are calculated, the SSA will use this information to determine whether there is any type of work you could potentially engage in to earn a living. 

The SSA will not rely solely on the RFC scores. The SSA will also take the following factors into considerations: 

  • How old you are
  • Your educational background
  • Your chosen profession, prior to the diagnosis

Medical Evidence Required When Relying on a Neurological Condition to Claim Disability

When you apply for disability benefits, you need to provide the SSA with a set of specific medical records to substantiate your claim that the diagnosed condition was properly diagnosed and it has had a material impact on your ability to work. To ensure your application is viable, you need to make sure you have the following documents ready to provide to the SSA:

  • Medical findings based on a neurological examination 
  • Results of your electrophysiological
  • Copies of any neuroimaging
  • Summary of medications
  • Your doctor’s opinion on what you are able to do and not do

What To Do If Your Neurological Disorder Does Not Meet the SSA’s Listed Requirements

It is fairly common for an individual struggling with a neurological disorder that prohibits them from being able to work, but that condition does not meet all of the specific requirements set forth by the SSA. If you find yourself in this situation, you should consider applying for a Medical Vocational Allowance.

How to Get a Medical Vocational Allowance

The Medical Vocational Allowance is effectively an exception enabling individuals who fail to meet the SSA’s specific requirements to maintain eligibility for disability benefits. In order to obtain a Medical Vocational Allowance, an applicant must submit a form for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. This evaluation will need to be conducted in concert with your medical provider, or providers. The form is fairly dense and complex, so do not be surprised if your doctor charges a fee before they agree to fill it out.

Provide As Much Detail as Possible

It is important to understand that the viability of your disability benefits application is based primarily on the documentation you provide to the SSA detailing your condition. This is why it is strongly recommended to err on the side of over-inclusion and provide as much detail as possible concerning your neurological condition. For example, you should not rely solely on the records provided by your doctors. You should also consider asking friends and family to document their encounters with you and recall incidents or episodes where your condition was apparent. This is important because many people who struggle with a neurological disorder are oftentimes unable to observe themselves when they are having an episode (e.g., an epileptic seizure). When you have a friend, work colleague, relative, etc. who witnessed your symptoms take the time to document the experience, it provides further evidence to substantiate the seriousness and impact of your neurological condition.

Unsure Whether Your Neurological Condition Makes You Eligible for Disability Benefits? Take Action by Filling Out the Evaluation Form

If you were diagnosed with a neurological condition that has prevented you from working, do not give and wallow in despair. Take action by filling out the evaluation form on this page and get the information you need to determine whether you qualify for disability benefits.

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