Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Social Security Disability

Phenylketonuria (also known as PKU) can be a very severe and debilitating condition. Oftentimes the people who suffer from the effects of untreated Phenylketonuria are unable to provide for themselves. Managing day-to-day life responsibilities can be a challenge, let alone the responsibilities of a full-time job. Because of this, the families of individuals with PKU are often left supporting the family member who suffers from the effects caused by the condition. This can result in a significant financial burden. Fortunately, Social Security Disability benefits can offset the financial crisis caused by the PKU condition. If someone you know is suffering from Phenylketonuria and you are wondering whether or not they may qualify for disability benefits, the following information can help you navigate the Social Security Disability application process.

Phenylketonuria (PKU) - Condition and Symptoms

Phenylketonuria is a rare genetic condition that creates a deficiency in the phenylalanine hydroxylase enzyme. The human body needs this enzyme in order to break down the phenylalanine amino acid. When there is not enough enzyme in the body to break down the amino acid, the resulting build-up becomes toxic to the central nervous system. This can result in a variety of severe side effects, including brain damage.

The phenylalanine amino acid is found in high-protein foods like chicken, fish, meat, eggs, cheese, nuts, bread, pasta and corn. Aspartame also contains phenylalanine. When a person suffers from Phenylketonuria, they need to monitor the amount of these foods they consume and do whatever they can to minimize the levels of phenylalanine in the body.

Classic PKU is the most serious form of Phenylketonuria. If this condition goes untreated it can result in permanent brain damage. Less severe cases of Phenylketonuria possess a lesser risk of brain damage, but individuals suffering from these conditions must also monitor the amount of phenylalanine they consume in order to avoid complications and brain damage.

It is important that PKU is diagnosed at birth. If an infant goes undiagnosed and a low phenylalanine diet is not immediately introduced, brain damage or mental retardation can occur within one year of birth. Babies who suffer from Phenylketonuria may be breast fed, but the mother's diet must be monitored and the intake of breast milk must also be restricted. Breast-fed babies who are diagnosed with Phenylketonuria must also be given a special formula in addition to the breast milk.

Phenylketonuria is normally diagnosed during routine infant health screenings and the PKU test is required by law in most states. These tests are usually conducted within the first two weeks of birth through a standard heel-prick blood test. If a baby tests positive for PKU, treatment options will be recommended.

While there is no cure for Phenylketonuria, treatment can help manage the condition. While untreated PKU can result in brain damage and mental retardation, babies who are treated from birth can go on to lead normal, healthy and productive lives with little to no side effects. Problems usually only develop when the condition goes undetected or untreated. When left untreated, individuals suffering from PKU may face brain damage, seizures, tremors, eczema, stunted growth and behavioral problems.

Filing for Social Security Disability with Phenylketonuria (PKU)

When an individual applies for Social Security Disability benefits, the disability examiner refers to a published listing of impairments referred to as the SSA Blue Book. The Phenylketonuria condition is listed in this Blue Book under Section 10.00 in paragraph C.2. Because the severity of PKU cases vary from individual to individual, however, a diagnosis of PKU in and of itself is not enough to qualify a person for Social disability benefits.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits as a result of Phenylketonuria, you must prove to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that the applicant is unable to participate in work activity due to the severity of the condition. Your application must include sufficient medical records to prove this fact. A medical history documenting the severity of the PKU condition, any side effects or complications that have occurred because of it and how the Phenylketonuria affects the applicant's day-to-day activities will go a long way in qualifying an individual for disability benefits.

Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Your Social Security Disability Case

Approximately 70 percent of Social Security Disability applications are denied at the initial stage of the application process. If you have clear medical evidence documenting a severe case of Phenylketonuria and can show through medical records how the condition prevents gainful work activity, you may be able to obtain benefits in the initial stage of the application process. If, however, your Social Security Disability application is one of the 70 percent of applications that are denied during the initial application stage, you will need to file an appeal in order to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

Fortunately, you do not have to go through the Social Security Disability process alone. If you have been denied disability benefits during the initial disability application process you should consult with a qualified Social Security Disability attorney. Statistics show that hiring an attorney can increase your chances of successfully appealing a denied disability application and receiving benefits at a disability hearing. The good news is that nearly two-thirds of appeals are decided in the favor of the applicant at this stage, so a denied disability application does not necessarily mean that you will not be awarded the benefits you need at a future date.