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Can I Work With Neuropathy?

What is Neuropathy?

If you suffer from neuropathy, it may affect your mobility, limit your abilities to perform routine daily tasks, and even keep you from working and earning a living. You may be able to qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

To be approved for disability benefits, you will need to provide supporting documentation that confirms the severity of your condition and that shows your limitations and restrictions.

Neuropathy is a variety of diseases that cause peripheral nervous system malfunctions. There are some situations the condition gradually develops but in other situations it has a sudden onset.

Some of the more common severe symptoms include muscular twitching, sensory changes, weakness, muscle loss, and changes to the autonomic system. Muscle spasms and cramping are experienced by many people who have the condition.

Many people with peripheral neuropathy experience muscle spasms and cramping.

Other problems commonly associated with peripheral neuropathy include: an irregular heart rate, abnormal blood pressure, loss of perspiration (ability to sweat), numbness, tingling.

People with neuropathy sometimes notice a sensation that has been described as being like wearing an invisible sock or glove. In some cases, it also causes extreme touch sensitivity.

The Social Security Administration lists peripheral neuropathy in its Blue Book, or the SSA's list of disabling conditions. Because of this, there are specific criteria SSA adjudicators use to determine if your neuropathy is severe enough to qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits.

These criteria include paralysis, ataxia, tremor, and involuntary movement in two or more limbs. If you have one or more of these symptoms, you are likely to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits as long as your claim makes this clear.

If you cannot work due to your neuropathy, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Is Neuropathy a Disability?

Neuropathy can be considered a disability by the SSA. In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits with neuropathy, you need to meet both the work and medical guidelines that are set by the SSA.

You must have at least 20 work credits. Work credits are calculated by your age and how long you have worked. You can earn up to four work credits for each year you worked.

You must also meet the medical guidelines outlined by the SSA in their Blue Book. The Blue Book is the list of conditions that the SSA considers to be disabilities that could qualify someone for Social Security disability benefits.

Peripheral neuropathy is listed in the Blue Book in section 11.14. In order to medically qualify, your peripheral neuropathy needs to be characterized as 1 of the following:

Disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.

OR

Marked limitation (see 11.00G2) in physical functioning (see 11.00G3a), and in one of the following:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  • Adapting or managing oneself

If you have neuropathy and it is so severe that you believe you will be out of work for at least 12 months and you meet both the work and medical requirements, the SSA will deem you disabled and you will be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

What to Know about Peripheral Neuropathy and Disability Benefits

How bad does peripheral neuropathy need to get in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits? Your peripheral neuropathy needs to be so severe, that you can no longer perform your normal job duties like you used to before your diagnosis.

If you are no longer able to work because of your peripheral neuropathy, then you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

If you have peripheral neuropathy in your hands and feet and that hinders your ability to perform your normal work duties, then that could be a reason in which you may want to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

For example, if you work a blue collar job, like a maintenance worker and you have peripheral neuropathy in your feet that make it impossible to walk like you used to, then that is one way you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

If you work a white collar job that is more sedentary, like a secretary and you have peripheral neuropathy in your hands and that makes it impossible to type, that is another way in which your peripheral neuropathy could be severe enough that you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

 Do you have Neuropathy? You could qualify for disability

There are other kinds of neuropathic pain such as diabetic neuropathy and small fiber neuropathy, however peripheral neuropathy is the only one listed in the SSA’s Blue Book.

If you have diabetic neuropathy or small fiber neuropathy and you can no longer work because of it, you can still be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

You can consult with your doctor to see which Blue Book listing matches closely with your symptoms or you can qualify through a medical vocational allowance.

To see if you qualify for disability under a medical vocational allowance, the SSA has to determine your residual functional capacity (RFC).

If your RFC shows your inability to perform your normal job duties, then you may be able to qualify for disability that way if you have neuropathic pain that is not in the Blue Book.

Meeting The Blue Book Criteria

The SSA uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, to determine if an individual qualifies for disability benefits. The Blue Book has a variety of listings to cover different body systems.

Each body system has various medical conditions listed and each condition has multiple criteria that apply to that health issue. If your medical records can show that you meet the criteria of the listing, your disability benefits claim will be approved.

There are two listings for impairments in the Blue Book that specifically deal with peripheral neuropathy. Section 9.08 and Section 11.14 both involve peripheral neuropathy and the medical criteria that lead to disability approval.

Section 9.08 focuses on neuropathy that is associated with diabetes. To qualify using this listing, you must have been diagnosed with diabetes and have neuropathy that is characterized by tremors, paralysis, ataxia, and involuntary movement in two of your legs or arms that affects your ability perform fine movements and gross motor abilities. This leads to limitations when walking or standing.

Section 11.14 is for the Neurological System, so peripheral neuropathy is addressed indirectly. To qualify using this listing, you will need to have a diagnosis of neuropathy that is characterized by involuntary movement in two of your legs or arms that disables you from performing fine movements and gross motor functioning that interferes with your ability to walk or stand, or neuropathy characterized by ataxia, tremor, or paralysis.

You can still be approved for disability benefits even if you don’t meet the Blue Book criteria. You can use a medical vocational allowance or a residual functional capacity (RFC), both of which will determine your limitations and restrictions and how they affect your ability your ability to work and earn a living.

Neuropathy and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work

A number of symptoms associated with neuropathy can make it difficult or impossible to perform physical work. Paralysis and ataxia can affect your ability to walk, bend, lift, or perform many of the actions required for physical labor.

 Do you have Neuropathy? You could qualify for disability

If you experience touch sensitivity, make sure that is thoroughly documented as well. Touch sensitivity, if it is severe enough, can make it impossible to do any job in which you may be bumped or jostled. This obviously rules out the vast majority of existing physical jobs.

Make sure that your medical records include all specific limitations your doctor places on your activities, as well as all daily activities that are affected by your neuropathy. Limitations should be very specific, and should include any limits on standing, walking and lifting.

Neuropathy and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work

Peripheral neuropathy sufferers are often incapable of performing even sedentary work. Besides the fact that nerve damage can cause sitting for long periods of time to be very painful, the condition often affects fine motor skills, making it impossible to do many of the tasks required in sedentary jobs.

Qualifying For Neuropathy Under A Medical Vocational Allowance

If you are disabled because of peripheral neuropathy, but you don’t qualify using the medical criteria of the Blue Book, you may be able to have your claim approved through a medical vocational allowance.

Using this approach, you must prove that your medical condition, which doesn’t qualify per the medical guide, keeps you from performing any kind of work that you are qualified to perform.

You will need to provide a detailed copy of your work history and provide documentation that demonstrates your inability to work. You may want to include testimony from former supervisors and co-workers who can verify what you used to do and what you cannot do now.

 Do you have Neuropathy? You could qualify for disability

They can help describe how your abilities deteriorated with the progression or onset of your condition.

A residual functional capacity (RFC) can be very helpful when your disability claim is reviewed. This form fully details your condition, your limitations and your restrictions. If your treating physician will complete the RFC in detail, it can be very beneficial to your disability claim.

The RFC will carefully detail your limitations, such as you cannot stand longer than 2 consecutive hours, you cannot lift more than 10 pounds, you can bend or reach, your fine motor skills or ability to finger are non-existent, how far you can walk, and how long you can stay in one position before having to be repositioned.

Using the medical vocational allowance, Disability Determination Services (DDS) will consider your medical conditions, your age, your symptoms and side effects, your restrictions and limitations, your work history, your transferrable skills, and your educational background. When all those things are considered, DDS will determine what kind of work – if there is any – that you can do.

As an example, you have neuropathy and diabetes and you are unable to work. You had previously worked as an inspector in a manufacturing facility. You don’t meet the criteria of the Blue Book listing, but you decide to use the medical vocational approach.

You cannot stand for more than an hour at a time, your arm movement is limited, and you cannot lift more than 5 pounds. Because of the neurological problems, you cannot perform fingering tasks, such as sorting papers or record keeping.

You are older than 50 and you have a high school diploma with no further education. You have only worked in inspector roles in manufacturing facilities. After reviewing the details of your case, and understanding the extent of all your limitations, DDS realizes that you are unable to continue working. You are then approved for disability benefits from the SSA.

Contact a Social Security Attorney Today

If you are unable to work because of neuropathy, you may want to enlist the help of a disability lawyer. Most disability claims are denied on the first review. After that, you would file a request for reconsideration. You can present more information for review with your case.

If it is denied during the reconsideration, you will want to ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge. An attorney will represent you throughout the process and will work to gather all your medical records so they can be accessed by DDS.

Disability attorneys takes cases on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket. Instead, your attorney is only paid when you win your claim. Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share the details of your case so you can determine the best way to proceed with your claim.

If your neuropathy is affecting your ability to work, you may want to seek the counsel of a Social Security attorney.

Hiring a Social Security attorney can greatly increase your chances of receiving disability benefits and is a valuable resource to have on your side. To speak with an attorney in your area today, take our Free Disability Evaluation

Additional Resources

Qualifying for Disability After 50 with Neuropathy
Applying for Social Security Disability with Neuropathy
Why Was My Neuropathy Claim Denied?