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Paralysis and Qualifying for SS Disability Benefits

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Paralysis?

Author: Attorney Greg Reed


paralysis disability lawyer

The SSA recognizes several disabling diseases that cause paralysis such as brain tumors, cerebral palsy, stroke and muscular dystrophy. Paralysis which occurs as the result of trauma to the brain or spine, such as a serious car accident, is included in this listing. Call 512-454-4000 for help today.

To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, an applicant must be able to identify the underlying cause of paralysis and provide medical evidence that paralysis prevents them from working for at least one year.


In 2013 study, researchers found that approximately 1.7 percent of the American population were living with some type of paralysis.

Paralysis is the temporary or permanent loss of muscle function in any part of the body. When a specific part of the body such as an arm or leg is affected, it is described as localized; when a large section of the body is affected, it is called generalized. Though paralysis usually affects an entire body region, paralysis can attack any part of the body at any time. A person may lose the ability to talk or breathe unaided as well as the ability to move.


Paralysis is characterized by body region:

  •    Hemiplegia: one side of the body is affected.
  •   Monoplegia: only one limb is affected.
  •   Diplegia or bilateral hemiplegia: both sides of the body are affected.
  •   Paraplegia: only the lower limbs are affected.
  •   Quadriplegia: all four limbs are affected.


Paralysis can have any number of causes, but some of the most common are spinal cord injury, stroke, and multiple sclerosis.

When the nerve cells controlling a muscle are injured or become diseased, a person loses the ability to move the muscle voluntarily. Paralysis on one side of the body is usually the result of damage to the opposite side of the brain while damage to the nerves of the spinal cord will affect different parts of the body. The nerve damage that causes paralysis can be in the central nervous system (the brain or spinal cord), or in the peripheral nervous system (nerves outside the spinal cord). The most common causes of damage to the brain are stroke, tumor, traumatic injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and metabolic disorders. Damage to the spinal cord can be caused by physical trauma, tumor, herniated disk, spondylosis (stiffening of the spine), rheumatoid arthritis, neurodegenerative disease, or multiple sclerosis. Damage to peripheral nerves may be caused by trauma, toxins or poisons, compression, or entrapment (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), inherited disease, radiation, or Guillain Barre syndrome. In rare cases, no physical cause for paralysis is found. This condition is known as a conversion disorder where a person converts psychological anxiety into symptoms of paralysis though muscle and nerve function remain undamaged.


Symptoms of paralysis depend on the cause of the paralysis and the part(s) of the body affected.

Loss of feeling and movement may be immediate when a stroke occurs, but in other cases, muscle weakness gradually increases. Paralysis can affect nerves carrying sensory information and nerves controlling the heart, lungs, glands, and intestines. Damage to the brain that results in paralysis can affect speech, behavior, and cognitive ability. Other symptoms include numbness and tingling, pain, changes in vision, or problems with balance.


At this time there is no cure for permanent paralysis.

Treatment focuses on assisting the individual in adapting to their condition and helping them become as independent as possible. A variety of mobility aids are now available including manual and electric wheelchairs and braces designed to improve muscle function and compensate for weakness.


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 Paralysis. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!


While some people with paralysis have severe limitations, others do have some abilities.

The severity of paralysis and how it affects an individual and their job duties will determine whether a person can continue working. If an applicant can use their arms or hands, but cannot walk or stand, they may still be able to perform some type of sedentary work. But if a person has lost the use of an arm and a leg and has difficulty balancing, they most likely cannot hold a job.


Though there is no specific listing for paralysis in Social Security’s Blue Book, Social Security recognizes several disorders that may cause paralysis.

  •    Section 1.04 – Disorders of the spine
  •    Section 11.08 – Spinal cord disorders
  •    Section 11.09 – Multiple Sclerosis
  •    Section 13.13 – Malignant neoplastic disease (Nervous System – brain and spinal cord)
  •    Section 14.02 – Systemic lupus erythematosus


To be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, an applicant must be able to identify the underlying cause of paralysis and provide medical evidence that paralysis prevents them from working for at least one year.

The best way to achieve this is to match your medical condition to one of Social Security’s impairment listings.


For example, if your paralysis is caused by a spinal cord disorder (Section 11.08), you must be able to show one of the following to satisfy the requirements of this listing:

  •    Complete loss of function of any part of the body, such as an arm or leg, as a result of spinal cord injury. (Loss of function can also mean paralysis of the gastrointestinal tract or loss of bladder control).
  •   Abnormal movement ability in two extremities that is related to a spinal cord injury. For example, one arm and one leg, that causes difficulty in the ability to balance while walking or standing, standing from a seated position, or using the hands and/or arms that is related to a spinal cord problem.
  •   Evidence of a spinal cord problem that is not severe, but occurring in combination with other serious limitations in 1) understanding, remembering or using information, 2) social interactions, 3) concentration, persisting, maintaining pace, or 4) care of oneself.


Social Security is primarily interested in the severity of loss of function resulting from paralysis and how long it will last.

Regardless of the cause of paralysis, you will need to provide solid medical evidence and substantiating documentation to prove the severity of your paralysis and how it affects your daily functions and your ability to work, including:

  •   A full medical history
  •   Test results that identify the cause of paralysis such as MRIs and CT scans
  •   Doctors’ statements, notes and opinions detailing your medical condition, symptoms, limitations, and prognosis
  •    Treatment records including medications, surgery, physical therapy, and results of treatment.


Be sure your medical evidence includes any difficulty you have in standing, walking, balancing, getting up from a seated position or using your arms and hands.

If you cannot walk for at least two hours daily, you may be approved for disability benefit.


If your disability does not match any Social Security’s listing, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another impairment; for example, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Applicants often have more than one illness or injury that prevents them from working full time. By itself one disorder may not meet the requirements of an impairment as stated in Social Security’s Blue Book. However, if an applicant has multiple medical conditions, Social Security must consider how those health issues, combined together, limit an applicant’s ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks. Social Security will also evaluate how your limitations affect your ability to work, taking into account whether or not you are able to drive, your age, and your level of education. If you can prove that your functional capacity is diminished by paralysis and you are unable to perform your job duties in your previous employment or any other job for which you are qualified, you may be approved for a medical vocational allowance.


If you are suffering from paralysis and it has impacted your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.


In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.

The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.

  1.   The Duration of Work test.   Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
  2.   The Current Work Test.   Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.

The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.

  1.   Are you working?   Your disability must be “total”.
  2.   Is your medical condition severe?    Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
  3.   Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?   The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
  4.   Can you do the work you did before?   SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
  5.   Can you do any other type of work?   If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.


More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.


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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.


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Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 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. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.

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