Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Parkinson’s disease?
One million people in the U.S. and 10 million people worldwide are affected by Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder characterized by tremors, stiffness, slow movement and postural instability. It is part of a collective group of neurological disorders known as Parkinsonian syndrome that causes movement problems.
In its early stages it is difficult to determine whether a person has Parkinson’s disease or a disorder mimicking the condition as its symptoms may take years to develop.
As the disease progresses, a person with Parkinson’s disease may have difficulty walking and talking or experience sleeping problems, memory difficulties, fatigue, or depression.
Common symptoms include:
- Tremors or shaking, beginning with a limb, hands or fingers. Shaking can occur even when the person is at rest.
- Slowed movement called bradykinesia. For example, a person’s steps may become shorter or the person may drag their feet.
- Rigid muscles in any part of the body which may be painful and limit range of motion.
- Impaired posture and balance.
- Decreased ability to perform unconscious movements like blinking or smiling.
- Changes in speech; for example, slurred speech or a monotone voice.
- Difficulty writing.
In Parkinson’s disease, the nerve cells or neurons that produce dopamine break down or die.
Dopamine is a chemical that functions as a neurotransmitter, sending signals to other nerve cells and is involved in motor control. The decrease in dopamine results in abnormal brain activity. Other factors which may be involved are a family history of Parkinson’s disease and exposure to toxins, such as herbicides and pesticides.
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 Parkinson’s Disease. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
A neurologist will diagnose Parkinson’s disease based on a patient’s medical history, a review of symptoms, and a neurological and physical examination. Four of the following symptoms must be present over a period of time to reach a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease:
- Shaking or tremors
- Bradykinesia (slowness of motion)
- Stiffness in arms, legs or body
- Problems with balance and falling.
In addition to lab tests to eliminate other medical conditions which might be causing your symptoms, a doctor may order a dopamine transporter (DAT) scan, a specific single-photon emission computerized tomography SPECT scan, and imaging tests such as MRIs, CT scans, PET scans and ultrasounds of the brain.
Even though these tests can provide evidence that a patient has Parkinson’s disease, in the end an individual’s symptoms and neurologic examination determine the diagnosis. It may take time to diagnose Parkinson’s disease and your doctor may recommend regular follow-up appointments to monitor your symptoms and condition.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but medications can control a patient’s symptoms and help manage walking, movement and tremors.
People with Parkinson’s disease have low levels of dopamine and most medications used in treatment either increase dopamine levels or substitute as dopamine. Dopamine can’t be given directly because it can’t enter the brain. Most patients are first treated with carbidopa-levodopa, a natural chemical that passes into the brain and converts into dopamine. Some doctors even prescribe this treatment at the beginning of a patient’s symptoms. If the patient improves, it can provide definitive evidence that the patient has Parkinson’s disease.
Also prescribed are:
- MAO B inhibitors to help prevent breakdown of dopamine in the brain;
- Dopamine agonists that mimic dopamine in the brain;
- Anticholinergics to help control tremors; and
- Amantadine to provide short-term relief of symptoms in mild, early stage Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinsonian syndrome is recognized as an impairment by the Social Security Administration under Section 11.06 of its Blue Book.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits under Parkinson’s disease, an applicant must exhibit the following for at least three consecutive months:
- Inability to control motion in two extremities (either an arm and a leg, or two arms or two legs), resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.
- Marked physical limitations AND marked problems in one of the following:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
- Interacting with others; or
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace, or
- Adapting or managing oneself.
You will need to provide both medical and non-medical evidence of your diagnosis to Social Security, including your medical history, examination findings, results of laboratory tests and medical imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.
You should also include descriptions of any treatments prescribed by your doctor and your responses to those treatments as well as statements by your medical providers and others describing your limitations, restrictions, daily activities, and how your condition affects your ability to work. If you don’t meet the criteria as set out in the Blue Book, you may still be able to qualify for a medical-vocational allowance if Social Security determines that there is no other work you can do because of your limitations, especially if you are age 50 or older.
If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 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.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- 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.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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