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Can I collect SSA disability for a seizure disorder?

Q:

Can I collect SSA dsability for a seizure disorder?

A:

Seizures can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, individuals may suffer from a non-epileptic seizure after a severe head injury; or epilepsy can cause partial (focal/localized) seizures, generalized seizures (grand mal / tonic-clonic seizures), and absence (petit mal) seizures.

Because doctors are rarely available to witness and diagnose the seizure at the time of occurrence, individuals who suffer from seizures must be especially aware of the events that can lead up to the seizure. Signs that a seizure may occur include changes in vision, dizziness, sickness in your stomach and anxiousness. During the seizure, symptoms can include drooling, frothing, muscle spasms, blackouts, confusion, falling, grunting, and loss of bowel or bladder function.

Winning SSDI or SSDI for Seizures

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is awarded to claimants who have a severe mental or physical disorder that does not allow them to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) for 12 continuous months.

Claimants must have worked and paid employment taxes, generating work credits, to qualify for SSDI benefits. Workers who have not worked or who have not paid taxes will not qualify for SSDI benefits, regardless of the severity of their health condition. Credits must be earned and cannot be bought or borrowed.

Claimants with a seizure disorder, such as epilepsy, may qualify for SSDI benefits, but they must prove that their condition is so severe that they cannot perform SGA. If a claimant is working too much or making too much money when they apply for benefits, their claim will be denied, regardless of the severity of their condition.

Meeting a Listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments for a Seizure Disorder

To make a disability determination for a seizure disorder, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will first determine if the applicant has a condition that “meets or equals” a listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments. This listing, also referred to as the SSA Blue Book, is a compilation of conditions and diseases, along with their corresponding symptoms, that the SSA considers automatically disabling.

Not every condition is listed in the SSA Blue Book. For this reason, the SSA will not only review whether or not your condition meets a listing, but also whether it equals a listing. This means that if your condition is not listed, you could still win benefits for a seizure disorder if the SSA determines that it is equal in severity as a listed condition.

Seizure disorders are commonly evaluated under 11.00 Neurological. Under this listing, seizures can be evaluated under 11.02 Epilepsy (each have to occur "despite adherence to prescribed treatment"):

A. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures
B. Dyscognitive seizures, occuring at least once a week
C. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures
D. Dyscognitive seizures, occuring at least once every two weeks

As mentioned above, there are other conditions that can also cause seizures, including serious head trauma. If you have had a serious head trauma, your condition can be evaluated under the listing for cerebral trauma (11.18 Traumatic brain injury). If you have had cerebral trauma and currently have seizures, the SSA will expect your conditions are as severe as those listed above for listings 11.02 or 11.03.

Winning SSI or SSDI for Seizures through a Medical Vocational Allowance

Not all claimants will have a condition that meets or equals a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments. For example, some claimants will have multiple conditions, none of which meet a listing, but which—if considered in their totality—may cause the claimant to be unable to perform SGA work.

If the SSA denies your case, claiming that your condition is not severe enough to meet or equal a listing, you may need to provide more medical evidence that you do not have the capacity to work. If you are able to prove your case, the SSA may award you disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance.

To win through this process, the SSA will evaluate your age, level of education, transferable work skills, other conditions and job restrictions, and determine if your seizure condition is so severe that you cannot consistently perform your past job or retrain for new work.

Winning through a medical vocational allowance is much more difficult than meeting a listing. In fact, if your condition does not meet a listing, it is likely that it will be denied and you will have to appeal your case. If this occurs, it is generally a good idea to discuss your case with a disability lawyer and determine what additional evidence you will need to provide to the SSA.

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Whether you're facing a legal issue or just seeking information, Justipedia aims to be your most trusted resource for legal information on the Web. With the help of legal professionals across the country, we put the law in plain language to help answer your top legal questions.

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