Can Meningitis Qualify me for SS Disability Benefits?
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Meningitis?
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
Meningitis is an infection and acute inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. There are several types of meningitis: viral meningitis, bacterial meningitis, chronic meningitis, and fungal meningitis. Most cases are caused by viral infection, but bacteria, fungi, and parasites can also be responsible. Children as well as adults may contract meningitis. If you are suffering from the effects of Meningitis you may qualify for disability benefits.
The symptoms of meningitis often mimic the flu in its early stages, developing over a matter of hours or a few days:
- Sudden high fever
- Stiff neck
- Severe headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin rash
- Sleepiness or difficulty waking
- Sensitivity to light
- No appetite or thirst
These or a combination of these symptoms can cause you to miss work and jeopardize your ability to maintain employment.
It is important to know the cause of meningitis and to receive treatment as soon as possible as meningitis can cause debilitating health conditions including:
- Hearing loss
- Brain damage
- Kidney failure
- Balance problems
- Memory difficulty
- Learning disabilities
These conditions and accompanying symptoms can affect your ability to maintain employment.
Treatment depends on the type of meningitis, but typically includes bed rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medications to control fever and body aches.
Viral meningitis is treated with intravenous antibiotics and corticosteroids, and anti-fungal medications are used to treat fungal meningitis. Treatment for chronic meningitis, which develops over a 2-week period, is based on its underlying cause.
Demonstrating that you are following your doctor’s treatment plan is an important part of qualifying for disability benefits.
Can I qualify for SSDI if I have meningitis?
Though many cases of meningitis resolve relatively quickly, others can cause long-lasting health problems that affect a person for years.
Social Security has created a manual called the Blue Book which lists impairments Social Security considers disabling and may automatically qualify for benefits. Meningitis does not have a specific listing; however, you may be able to qualify if you can prove your disability is equivalent in severity and duration to a listed disorder; for example, Section 14.07 Immune deficiency disorders. To qualify under that listing, meningitis must be resistant to treatment or require hospitalization or intravenous treatment three or more times in a 12-month period. If you suffer from seizure, strokes or memory problems, you may be eligible under Section 11.00 Neurological.
In any case, Social Security will want to see the following medical evidence:
- A diagnosis of meningitis
- Physician notes detailing your limitations
- Clinic notes
- Radiology reports
- Lab work
- Biopsy reports
- Medications and treatments you are taking and your response
Social Security gives a lot of weight to doctors’ opinions.
You need to show that you are receiving regular medical treatment and following your doctor’s instructions. A written statement from your doctor regarding your diagnosis and outlook for your recovery is extremely helpful.
Another way to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits is to demonstrate your medical condition prevents you from working at your old job or any other job.
Social Security is mainly interested in your functional limitations and how they impact your daily life. Complications resulting from meningitis can affect your ability to do physical work or sedentary work. You may be experiencing difficulty speaking, loss of balance, and memory and concentration problems. If your symptoms don’t match a listing, but you still can’t work, Social Security will conduct a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment to evaluate your physical and mental capabilities to determine if there is any job you can do, taking into consideration your age, education and whether or not you can drive. Even better, ask your doctor to fill out an RFC form. If Social Security decides you cannot do your old job or don’t have the skills to perform a new job, you may be approved for a Medical-Vocational Allowance.
If you are 55 or older or have another medical condition you may get approval.
Social Security follows a set of rules to determine when the agency expects an applicant to learn a new job.
Applicants who are 55 or older often fall under a grid rule, which means they are not expected to learn a new job. For example, a 55-year-old applicant with no transferable skills might be found disabled. If you can’t go back to your old job, and you don’t have the skills to learn a new one, Social Security will likely grant you disability benefits.
You may also be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another medical condition.
Meningitis often has long-term after effects such as hearing loss or recurrent seizures. One disorder alone may not meet the criteria of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book, but if you have more than one medical condition, Social Security must consider how those health issues combined limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.
Social Security also has basic financial requirements.
Before you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, you must satisfy some basic financial requirements.
You must: 1) have a disability that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months; and 2) you must have worked in a job where you paid Social Security taxes long enough and recently enough; and 3) you must not earn more than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), which is $1,550 per month in 2024 for nonblind applicants and $2,590 per month for blind applicants.
What if I don’t qualify for SSDI?
If you haven’t worked long enough to earn enough work credits, or if you earn too much income, you may be eligible for disability benefits through another Social Security program, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or from a long-term disability insurance plan through your employer or a privately purchased policy.
SSI is a program that pays monthly benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. SSI is based on income instead of work credits, and is financed by general funds of the U.S. Treasury.
I have long-term disability insurance – should I file a claim?
Absolutely. Long-term disability insurance (LTD) is coverage that protects your income if you are unable to work due to illness or injury and is purchased as part of a group employment plan or privately through an insurance company.
Policies pay between 50-60% of your salary and benefits continue until you return to work or for the number of years stated in the policy. However, LTD coverage is good only as long as you are employed, so do not quit your job before you file a claim, and be sure to check your policy’s definition of “disabled” as each policy will state the definition of “disabled” which is in use. Additionally, be aware that long-term disability insurance companies can require a claimant to also apply for SSDI.
How do I file for Social Security Disability benefits?
You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security Administration office.
Don’t be discouraged if your initial application is denied – most are – and you will have the opportunity to appeal. There are four steps to the Social Security appeal process:
- File a Request for Reconsideration with the Social Security Administration to completely review the case.
- If you don’t agree with SSA’s response to your Request for Reconsideration, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). ALJs are attorneys who work for the Social Security Administration; they review SSDI cases and either uphold or overturn decisions to deny SSDI benefits. If you are not represented by an attorney at this point, now is the time to obtain legal counsel. This is a critical point in the process and will raise your chance for success.
- If an ALJ does not grant your claim, you can request that the Appeals Council review your case.
- Federal Court review. The final step in the appeal process is filing suit in U.S. District Court.
Do I need a disability attorney for SSDI?
If you have meningitis and cannot work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but qualifying is complicated and applying for SSDI is a long process that can take several months to years.
Your chances for approval are increased significantly if you have legal representation. At each potential stage of the process, from the initial application stage, the reconsideration stage and the ALJ hearing stage, an attorney can assist you in completing the detailed forms and questionnaires required by Social Security, collecting and submitting relevant medical evidence, and preparing questionnaires for your doctors. At the ALJ hearing phase an attorney will not only continue to assure that the evidence is complete, but prepare you for questioning by the ALJ, prepare an argument on your behalf and question any doctors or vocational experts selected by the ALJ to testify at the hearing. At the Appeals Council and federal court level, a lawyer can present legal arguments to show your case was wrongfully denied. Fees charged by disability attorneys are regulated by federal law and are usually 25% of disability backpay you are owed. There are no out-of-pocket costs, and if you don’t win your case, you won’t be charged anything.
If you are suffering from Meningitis and have been denied disability don’t give up, almost 70% are denied initially! Just call 512-454-4000 for a free, no obligation consultation to learn what your options are. Have some questions? just give us a call, we love to help folks just like you!
Do I need a disability attorney for a long-term disability insurance claim?
Whether you have a long-term disability insurance policy purchased through a private insurance broker or a group policy purchased with your employer, filing a claim for long-term insurance is a complex process.
The wording of LTD policies can be confusing and the laws and regulations which affect the two types of LTD insurance differ in their procedures for filing claims and appeals. An experienced LTD attorney with thorough knowledge of ERISA laws and regulations will avoid mistakes and increase your chance of success. An attorney will act on your behalf, completing your application and filing your claim in a timely manner. They can also negotiate a settlement or file an appeal for you. If it becomes necessary to file suit, an LTD attorney can prepare your case against an insurer. Most LTD attorneys handle cases on a contingency basis and charge approximately 25%-40% of a claimant’s past due benefits. You do not pay an attorney’s fee unless the attorney wins your case.
At The Texas Disability law firm Bemis Roach & Reed, our attorneys are committed to helping injured or disabled clients receive the benefits they deserve. Mr. Roach is AV Preeminent and SuperLawyers rated and has become a recognized leader in the field of Long Term Disability law. Mr Bemis focuses his practice on Social Security disability while Mr Reed handles both LTD and SSDI claims. Both are AV Preeminent and SuperLawyers rated and all our attorneys have been successfully helping people fight for their rights against big insurance companies and the government since 1993. If you have applied for benefits and been denied call 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for over 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Roach obtained board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Highly experienced in Long Term Disability denials and appeals governed by the “ERISA” Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Austin Bar Association, and is a past the director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association (Director 1999-2005) Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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