Memory Disorders and Qualifying for Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Memory Disorders?
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis
The Social Security Administration acknowledges memory impairment as a disability under Section 12.02 Neurocognitive Disorders of its Blue Book. Memory loss is evaluated by its severity and the extent to which it limits a claimant’s ability to work.
As people age it is not uncommon to experience some memory loss.
A person might forget a name temporarily or misplace their keys. This forgetfulness is quite normal and doesn’t interfere with an individual’s ability to work or live a full life. A memory disorder is much more serious, however, and can prevent a person from working and impact their personal life, possibly qualifying for disability assistance.
Memory is the ability to store, retain, and recall information and past experiences; it can be categorized as short-term memory or long-term memory.
Short-term memory is the ability to remember and process information at the same time and remember that information for a short period. Long-term memory is the storage of information and experiences over an extended period of time. Memory disorders can range from mild to severe and be progressive or sudden, but all result from some type of neurological damage to the brain, hindering the retention and recollection of memories.
An individual experiencing a memory impairment will usually exhibit some of the following symptoms:
- Frequently forgetting words while speaking
- Confusing words; for example, saying “chair” for “table”
- Asking the same question over and over
- Misplacing items or putting them in inappropriate places
- Taking a long period of time to complete familiar tasks
- Getting lost in a familiar place
- Changes in mood for no reason
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 Memory Disorders. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Memory impairment is common in neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia, but also occurs in other disorders.
- Amnesia – a mental condition that affects memory and learning in an otherwise normally functioning individual.
- Agnosia – the inability to recognize certain objects, persons, or sounds.
- Hyperthymestic syndrome – a rare disease in which individuals can recall events from every day of their lives except those memories before age five or days that were uneventful.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome – a neurological disorder caused by a thiamine deficiency often associated with alcohol abuse.
Memory loss is the result of a variety of factors, some of which may be reversible:
- Traumatic brain injury (fall, car accident or sports injury)
- Non-traumatic brain injury (stroke, aneurism, tumor, infectious disease)
- Substance abuse
- Cardiovascular disease
- Infectious or metabolic disease
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Family history
- Depression and stress
To diagnose a memory disorder, in addition to conducting a physical exam, a doctor will ask a patient a series of questions to evaluate their memory and thinking skills.
They will also order blood tests and brain-imaging tests to identify reversible causes. Like many other medical conditions, treatment for memory loss depends on the cause. For example, memory loss caused by medications may be resolved with a change in prescription; nutritional supplements can be added to a patient’s diet to correct a vitamin deficiency. In other cases, therapy might help a patient who has suffered a stroke re-learn how to tie their shoes.
But memory loss is not always easy to treat, affecting not only an individual’s ability to remember, but also their capacity to reason, make decisions and communicate.
Frequently claimed as a primary or secondary impairment, the Social Security Administration acknowledges memory impairment as a disability under Section 12.02 Neurocognitive Disorders of its Blue Book. Memory loss is evaluated by its severity and the extent to which it limits a claimant’s ability to work. In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must prove you have a physical or mental condition that causes memory loss and prevents you from performing required tasks at work. Additionally, and perhaps even more important, your memory impairment must limit your ability to learn new skills to perform another job. If you are not able to remember locations, work procedures, and short instructions, it’s likely Social Security will approve your application.
An applicant must show a decline in one of the following cognitive areas:
- Paying attention and listening
- Planning and judgment (executive function)
- Learning and memory, particularly recent memory
- Ability to remember words and not mix up words
- Physical coordination
- Social cognition – knowing how to behave in a variety of circumstances
In addition to one of the above, the applicant must provide evidence of extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two of the following skills. “Marked” means less than extreme and worse than moderate.
- Understanding, remembering, and applying information
- Interacting with others
- Concentration; the ability to maintain pace and complete a task
- Adapting or managing oneself; the ability to work independently of others, be aware of safety hazards and take precautions
Social Security will want to see complete medical records and your work history.
You should document all sources of medical treatment including names of physicians and addresses. Your doctor and medical providers should provide detailed statements demonstrating your inability to perform repetitive tasks involving short-term and long-term memory. Your doctor should also provide a statement describing your specific symptoms and how your memory is affected.
Social Security will probably require a consultative exam performed by a Social Security doctor to evaluate claims of symptoms that are not apparent.
This exam will include a Weschler Memory Scale (WMS) exam which tests memory functions such as the ability to recall past events, current events, number sequences, photos, pictures and word associations. If you have trouble remembering appointments, ask a friend or family member to write down dates and times. If you miss a meeting with Social Security, your claim could be dismissed.
If you have a memory disorder, yet your disability does not match the specifications of Social Security’s listing, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another impairment.
For example, your memory impairment is judged to be only moderate, but you also experience depression.
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 (called a medical-vocational assessment), taking into account whether or not you are able to drive, your age, and level of education.
If you are experiencing memory loss 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.
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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