Every year, approximately 200,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy, and in two-thirds of these patients, the cause of this condition is unknown. When a person has epilepsy, there's a disturbance in the normal pattern of neuronal activity. These “misfirings” of the brain's electrical system can cause muscle spasms, convulsions, and loss of consciousness. It’s estimated that nearly 50,000 Americans die each year from prolonged seizures,
If you have a seizure, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have epilepsy. Approximately 1 in 100 people in the United States will have some type of seizure during their lifetimes, for no apparent reason. Alcohol, drug withdrawal, high fevers, concussions, and low blood sugar can cause seizures that aren't related to epilepsy.
Many people who suffer from epilepsy find that it can disrupt their normal routines and interfere with daily activities. Some find it impossible to work because of seizures. If you can’t sustain gainful employment due to your epilepsy, you may be eligible for Social Security (SS) benefits. However, it’s helpful to consult with a SS disability lawyer who can step you through the application process.
Eligibly for Epilepsy
Before submitting a claim to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for epilepsy, you should know the criteria listed in the SSA’s Blue Book Listing of Impairments for this condition. Epilepsy is evaluated in the Neurological section of this book, under Epilepsy 11.02.
Because there many types of epilepsy, and each has its own complications and symptoms, to qualify for benefits, you must be able to show that your seizures have occurred within a certain period of time, and they’ve continued despite your adherence to prescribed treatment. In some cases, you must also show a marked limitation in one of the following areas:
- Physical functioning
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information
- Interacting with others
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
- Adapting or managing oneself
The SSA uses these specific criteria to determine whether or not you have a disability due to your medical condition. To be considered disabled, your condition should:
- Prevent you from holding down a full-time job
- Expected to last at least for one year or has already gone on that long
Applying for Disability
Applying for SS benefits for epilepsy can be a challenging task, and some people claim that applications for epilepsy are among the most difficult to get through the approval process. Important medical evidence is needed, as well as proof that your functionality is impaired. Your doctor should include a complete description of your seizures and document how they impact your life and what you can expect in the future. If the doctor has determined the cause of your seizures, that should be included on the medical forms. If the SSA knows the cause of your condition, it may help in determining the extent of your disability.
There are also things you can do to make the process a bit easier. Seeing a specialist for your disorder and getting a medical report from him that assesses your level of functionality can be helpful. Also, be sure to continue with your medical treatment.
Additionally, you can increase your chances of obtaining benefits by understanding that, in general, the SSA evaluates claims on the answers to the following five questions:
- Are you engaged in “substantial gainful activity?”
- Do you have a “severe” impairment?
- Does your impairment meet or “equal” one of the impairments described in the SS Blue Book of Impairments?
- Are you unable to do “past relevant work?”
- Even with your impairment, can you do other work, considering your age, education, and work experience?
If Your Claim Is Denied
Once you submit your application, it may take several months before you receive a decision. During that time, it’s important to continue taking all of your prescribed medication and keep collecting medical data and information pertinent to your claim. In doing so, you’ll be better prepared should you need to go through the appeals process.
It’s not uncommon for your first claim to be denied by the SSA. In general, the SSA denies nearly three-fourths of initial applications. If your claim gets denied, you have 60 days to file an appeal. This process can be confusing and overwhelming, but it’s a necessary next step if you want to receive benefits. Typically, the SSA approves more applicants during the appeals process than the initial application process.
We Can Help With Your Appeal
If you need help applying for SS benefits for epilepsy or your application has been denied, contact Cuddigan Law. We have years of experience handling disability claims, and we can help you with yours. Call our office at (402) 933-5405, or fill out our online form today.