What neurological problems qualify for Social Security disability?

It would be nearly impossible to list every possible neurological problem which could cause you to qualify for Social Security Disability. In the eyes of the SSA, you are qualified for Social Security Disability if you have any neurological disablity that makes it impossible for you to engage in any gainful employment. As with any other disability, a neurological disorder must be long term (expected to last more than a year or end in your death) to qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits.

Many neurological problems have specific SSA guidelines regarding what exactly is considered acceptable for Social Security Disability benefits. In many cases, before total disability can be determined, you will need to demonstrate that you have been under the care of a physician; have taken all prescribed medicines; and your symptoms are still bad enough that you cannot be expected to perform work on an ongoing basis. This sometimes takes several months of observation and requires keeping track of all symptoms.

Some of the more common neurological problems (for which the SSA has specific guidelines) include: migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis (MS), brain tumors (benign and malignant), epilepsy, persistent motor function disorganization, traumatic brain injury, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, and spinal chord/nerve lesions. While this list is by no means exhaustive, these are the most common neurological problems approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

While it is beyond our scope to go into all of the particulars of each disorder and what you must do in order to demonstrate that you have a long term, total disability, you will need to keep a journal of all symptoms, including the duration, severity, and effect on daily activities. You will also want to document all attempts to work, especially if such attempts were hindered by your neurological disorder.

Most neurological diseases are treated with medication, and you must demonstrate that you have been taking all medicine prescribed. Often, this will include taking a drug test to ensure that a sufficient amount of all serums prescribed to you are in your blood stream.

Medical Evidence to Prove You Can’t Work

When you are submitting a claim for disability benefits the medical documentation that you submit will have a big impact on whether or not your claim is approved.

Some of the most common types of medical documentation that you should submit are a doctor’s diagnosis of your condition, test results, and MRI scans or X-rays.

When you have a spinal condition that makes it impossible to work you should also include documentation of MRI and CT scans that show the extent of the spinal cord damage. Only severe spinal cord injuries can qualify for disability benefits so it’s important to show evidence that your spinal cord injury is severe.

The Social Security Administration’s Blue Book contains more detailed information about how to qualify for disability benefits with a neurological disorder.

The Blue Book is the official SSA listing of all the conditions that make someone eligible for disability benefits and the requirements that must be met for each condition. It is available online and searchable.

You can find your specific disorder and see exactly what evidence you will need to submit in order to qualify for disability benefits.

For example, if you are submitting a claim for disability benefits because you have Parkinson’s the Blue Book states that you must submit medical evidence showing that you have these two symptoms of Parkinson’s:

  • rigidity
  • bradykinesia, or tremor in two extremities causing ongoing problems with movement gait, or ability to stand.

A doctor’s diagnosis and other medical evidence will cement your claim for disability benefits. If you’re not sure if you meet the Blue Book requirements for a neurological disorder ask your doctor if your condition meets the Blue Book criteria.

What If My Neurological Disorder Doesn’t Meet a Listing?

It’s very common for someone to have a neurological disorder that makes it impossible for them to work but doesn’t meet the requirements in the Blue Book. In that case you can apply for a Medical Vocational Allowance.

The Medical Vocational Allowance is an exception that allows people who don’t meet the Blue Book requirements to still be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

In order to get a Medical Vocational Allowance you will have to submit a form for a Residual Functional Capacity evaluation.

You will need to download this form and give it to your doctor to fill out.

The form is detailed and long, so it might take your doctor some time to fill out. Some doctors might charge a fee to fill out the form because it is so time consuming.

When officials at the SSA are considering your claim they will look at the RFC as well your age, your work history, and your skill set to see if there is any kind of work that you can do.

They will also look at factors like whether or not you can stand for 6-8 hours, or type for 6-8 hours per day.

If the SSA determines that there is no work you can be expected to do with the symptoms that you have then you can be approved for disability benefits even though you don’t meet the Blue Book criteria for disability benefits.

Next Steps to Take

The Social Security Administration will determine whether or not you qualify for Social Security Disability largely based on the documentation of your symptoms.

This is especially true when it comes to neurological disorders which are episodic in nature (i.e., symptoms which are not constant, but happen periodically, such as seizures).

Because those who suffer from neurological disorders typically can’t observe themselves when they are having an episode, it is important that you have someone who has witnessed your symptoms document their observations concerning the extent and severity of your neurological episodes.

Ideally, your doctor can help you and should be the one to record and report about your symptoms. Unfortunately, however, seizures and other neurological problem symptoms seldom arrive on a schedule, and it is not always possible for your doctor to report first hand knowledge regarding your symptoms. If your doctor has never seen your symptoms, you should include documentation by those who have observed your symptoms or episodes.

Some neurological problems are easier to diagnose and document than others.

Because of this, the amount of time it takes for your Social Security Disability claim to work its way through the Social Security Disability system can vary from three months to several years. One of the best ways to make sure that your claim goes through as quickly and successfully as possible is to have a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer file your claim and any appeals which may be necessary.