Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a genetic condition which can cause mental retardation and other physical and mental defects if it is left untreated. Babies are usually checked for Phenylketonuria within the first couple weeks of their lives. If PKU is detected, the parents are given strict dietary instructions regarding what kinds of food the baby can and cannot eat. These dietary restrictions should be observed for the entire life of someone who has Phenylketonuria (PKU).
Phenylketonuria affects the body’s ability to break down the amino acid phenylalanine, which is found in many high protein foods such as meats and cheeses. This is caused by a lack of the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase. Because of this, if a person with PKU doesn’t observe specific dietary requirements, they could end up with severe issues, which could potentially affect their ability to function and work later in life.
In most cases, as long as PKU is detected early and treated appropriately, there are no significant or lasting effects (other than dietary restrictions). However, if Phenylketonuria is undetected (or worse, if the dietary restrictions are ignored), a baby with PKU can suffer significant mental and physical defects within the first year of life.
Phenylketonuria is listed by the Social Security Administration as a condition which can be debilitating, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Because each case is different, and there is no set objective standard for determining whether someone with PKU is completely disabled for Social Security Disability purposes, the SSA looks at each Social Security Disability claim separately.
In other words, having PKU does not automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits. However, if your symptoms are severe enough that you cannot reasonably be expected to conduct any kind of meaningful work or find any kind of gainful employment, you can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on your Phenylketonuria.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work
Your ability (or lack of ability) to perform physical work depends on the severity of the symptoms you suffer from. Common Phenylketonuria symptoms which may hinder your ability to perform physical work include seizures, tremors, malformation of the hands and eczema.
In addition, many of the mental defects caused by PKU can have an indirect impact on your ability to perform physical work. While mental retardation or other learning disabilities which often accompany PKU aren’t likely to affect your ability to walk or to lift or perform other physical job functions, they may very well hinder your ability to perform these actions in a typical work environment. Symptoms like ADHD and other behavioral problems that can follow someone with PKU into adulthood can make it impossible to hold down steady gainful employment, even when performing primarily physical labor-oriented jobs.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work
Most people who have any of the mental impairments associated with PKU won’t be expected to perform sedentary work, as the positions often require a great deal of focus and an ability to work with other people. However, it is crucial to make sure that your doctor or mental health professional lists all restrictions on your work activities, both physical and non-physical, as all of this information will be used in determining whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.
Because Phenylketonuria does not have its own listing for Social Security Disability, and there are no specific standards set for eligibility based on PKU, it is advisable to seek the help of a Social Security Disability attorney who has experience working with similar cases before filing for Social Security Disability benefits. Besides the fact that this can make the whole process smoother and less stressful, having a Social Security Disability lawyer significantly improves your chances of having a successful claim, resulting in the collection of Social Security Disability benefits.