Neurocognitive Disorder and obtaining Social Security disability benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of a Neurocognitive Disorder?
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
Neurocognitive disorder is a group of conditions that leads to impaired mental function. These conditions include Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, prion disease, traumatic brain injury and dementia/neurocognitive issues due to HIV infection.
Neurocognitive disorder affects an individual’s attention, perception, learning ability and social cognition.
Individuals with neurocognitive disorder may have problems with memory and difficulty understanding language. They may exhibit changes in behavior and have trouble performing daily activities. Neurocognitive disorder can be diagnosed as either major in nature or mild, depending on the severity of a person’s symptoms.
These conditions occur most often in older adults, but can also affect younger people.
The most common cause of neurocognitive disorder is a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
But for people under the age of 60 there are usually other causes and risk factors:
- Concussion or traumatic brain injury that causes bleeding in the brain
- Encephalitis (an inflammation of brain tissue)
- Blood clots
- Septicemia (a serious bloodstream infection)
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Exposure to heavy metals such as lead or mercury which can damage the nervous system
- Vitamin deficiency
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Neurocognitive Disorder. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Symptoms of neurocognitive disorder vary depending on its cause.
Individuals with a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease experience memory loss, confusion or anxiety.
Other symptoms include:
- Headaches, especially after a brain injury
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Difficulty planning
- Inability to make decisions
- Difficulty walking or keeping balance
- Short-term memory loss
- Trouble performing routine activities such as driving
- Changes in vision
- Speaking or behaving in ways that are not socially acceptable
Evidence of a neurocognitive disorder is frequently first noticed by an individual’s healthcare provider, a family member, or the individual.
Though not caused by a mental disorder, symptoms of a neurocognitive disorder can be similar to depression, schizophrenia and psychosis, so a doctor will first try to eliminate other possible conditions.
There are a number of tests which can be used to confirm a diagnosis:
- Cranial CT scan – examines soft tissues in the brain
- MRI – provides detailed images of the brain
- PET (positron emission tomography) – uses radio-active tracers to highlight damage to the brain
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) – measures electrical activity in the brain.
Treatment of neurocognitive disorders depends on the cause.
Some patients require only rest to heal injuries and medication to relieve pain. Antibiotics may be prescribed for infections that affect the brain such as meningitis. Occupational therapy and physical therapy can help patients relearn everyday skills and develop strength, coordination, balance and flexibility. Because concussions and infections are often temporary, the outlook in those cases is very positive, and those individuals can usually expect a full recovery. In contrast, individuals with major neurocognitive disorder experience severe symptoms throughout their lives that interfere significantly with their daily activities, both at work and at home.
The Social Security Administration lists neurocognitive disorders as an impairment in its Blue Book under Section 12.02.
To meet the requirements of this listing an individual must have medical documentation of one or more of the following problems and show a significant decline in functioning:
- Paying attention and listening to others;
- Inability to plan and decreased judgment;
- Learning and memory problems;
- Difficulty with language; errors in grammar, use of words or inability to speak;
- Problems in coordination, balance, walking;
- Inability to know proper social behavior in different situations.
Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two of the following:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information.
- Interacting with others.
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace when performing tasks.
- Understanding what is acceptable work performance, behavior and dress in a work environment.
The Social Security Administration recognizes that some people do not meet the above criteria because they live at home or in an institution in a supportive and supervised situation. In those cases, Social Security requires an applicant to provide the following:
Your condition must be medically documented as “serious and persistent;” the disorder must have existed over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
- You have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.
The Social Security Administration is most concerned with your ability to function in a work environment.
A doctor must identify a medical cause for your condition and treat it to the extent possible. An applicant with severe symptoms may need a family member or friend to accompany them to medical appointments to ensure that all of their medical problems and difficulties in daily life are included in their medical records. If your medical records do not contain enough evidence, Social Security will request evaluations by a psychologist or psychiatrist, at no cost to the applicant. Though applicants usually have imaging such as CT scans and MRIs in their medical records, Social Security does not require it. If the severity of your condition cannot be determined, Social Security may ask you to take a neuropsychological test. It is important to note that even though neurocognitive disorders and intellectual disorders are listed as impairments under the same section, they are different disorders and have different criteria. A low score on an IQ test is not considered evidence of a neurocognitive disorder, but if an applicant takes two IQ tests and the score on the second IQ test is significantly lower than the first IQ test, the decline in test scores may suggest the existence of a neurocognitive disorder. Throughout their evaluation process, Social Security gives the most weight to observations by medical and psychological professionals.
It is estimated that major neurocognitive disorders affect one to two percent of people by age 65.
If you suffer with a neurocognitive disorder and it has impacted your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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