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Can I collect SSA Disability for a seizure disorder?
Diagnosing a Seizure
Seizures can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, individuals may suffer from a non-epileptic seizure after severe head injury, or epilepsy can cause partial seizures, generalized seizures (grand mal or tonic-clonic seizures), and 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.
For example, 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 Bluebook, 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 Bluebook. 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 Section 11.00 Neurological. Under this listing, seizures can be evaluated under Listing 11.02 Convulsive Epilepsy and 11.03 Nonconvulsive Epilepsy.
For Convulsive Epilepsy, the SSA will evaluate if you have seizures that occur more than once per month (during the day), which cause convulsions and loss of conscious or at night, which interfere with your daily activities. The SSA would expect that you are receiving proper treatment for at least three months but continue to have these symptoms.
For Nonconvulsive Epilepsy, the SSA will evaluate whether you have petit mal, psychomotor, or focal seizures at least one time per week, “with alteration of awareness or loss of consciousness and transient postictal manifestations of unconventional behavior or significant interference with activity during the day”. Again, the SSA will expect that you are receiving adequate treatment for your conditions but continue to suffer from nonconvulsive epileptic events.
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 Cerebral Trauma). If you have had cerebral trauma and currently have seizures, the SSA will expect your conditions are as severe as those listed above for listing 11.02 or 11.03.
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.