Can Seizure Disorders Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of a seizure disorder?
Author: Attorney Greg Reed
According to the Minnesota Epilepsy Group, if a person has one seizure, they have a 40 to 50 percent chance of having another seizure within two years, if they do not take medication. A seizure is a single burst of electrical activity in the brain, but there is a difference between having one seizure and having a seizure disorder. A seizure is a one-time event while a seizure disorder is a condition where a person has recurring, multiple seizures. A person who experiences two or more unprovoked seizures is considered to have a seizure disorder. An unprovoked seizure occurs due to natural causes such as genetic factors or a metabolic imbalance. A provoked seizure is triggered by a specific event like a stroke or brain injury. If you suffer from the effects of a seizure disorder you may qualify for disability benefits.
All seizures are not alike and symptoms vary.
A person may experience a sudden change of awareness or unusual sensations or thoughts. The most common symptoms include:
- Involuntary movements, especially of the arms and legs;
- Staring into space;
- Stiffening then loosening of muscles;
- Loss of consciousness;
- Rapid eye blinking;
- Nausea; and
There are two main types of seizures: focal and generalized.
Focal seizures begin on one side of the brain and spread. A generalized seizure may start as a focal seizure that spreads to both sides of the brain or begin on both sides of the brain at once.
There are two types of focal seizures:
- Focal onset aware seizure. The person is conscious during the seizure which usually lasts less than two minutes, although they may not be able to respond to people while the seizure is occurring. They may have difficulty speaking, involuntarily move an arm or leg, or see flashing lights.
- Focal onset impaired seizure. The person may become unconscious and may perform repetitive actions like hand rubbing, or walk in circles without being aware.
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 a seizure disorder. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Generalized seizures involve all areas of the brain. There are several types of generalized seizures and include:
- Absence seizures. This type of seizure typically appears in children and is characterized by episodes of staring off into space, eye blinking or lip smacking. Episodes are brief, lasting only 5 to 10 seconds, but may occur hundreds of times per day.
- Myoclonic seizures. These seizures cause arms and legs to twitch and jerk.
- Tonic-clonic seizures. These seizures, previously known as grand mal seizures, can last as long as 20 minutes. They can cause an abrupt loss of consciousness, body stiffening and shaking, and in some cases, loss of bladder control or biting the tongue.
Brain cells called neurons send and receive electrical impulses and when there is an excess of electrical activity a seizure occurs. Seizures may be caused by genetic mutations or triggered by any number of factors:
- Head injury
- Brain tumor
- Infections like meningitis
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
- Low blood sugar
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Repetitive sounds or flashing lights
- Medications such as antipsychotics or asthma drugs
- Use of recreational drugs
- Abnormalities in blood vessels in brain
- Withdrawal from narcotics, alcohol or some medications
- COVID-19 virus
Focal and generalized seizures have different causes, so it’s important to have an accurate diagnosis in order to prescribe treatment.
A doctor will perform a neurological exam and test a patient’s motor skills and mental functioning. They will also order blood tests or spinal taps to look for infection, an EEG to monitor electrical activity in the brain, and imaging (MRI, CT or PET) to look for problems in the brain. Treatment involves medications to reduce excess electrical activity in the brain, nerve stimulation and changes in diet. A diet high in fat and low in protein and carbohydrates sometimes changes the body’s chemistry and decreases the frequency of seizures. In some cases, surgery is advised to remove a portion of the brain to stop seizures.
Qualifying for Disability for Seizures
Because seizure disorders can be controlled by medication in most cases, an applicant for Social Security Disability Income must prove that they have frequent seizures which interfere with their work life and other daily activities – despite medications and other treatment.
An adult may be eligible for SSDI if they can meet the requirements of Social Security’s Blue Book listing for epilepsy, Section 11.02.
To qualify under this listing, you must be able to document that you suffer from the following:
- A. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures, occurring at least once a month for at least 3 consecutive months.
- B. Dyscognitive (focal) seizures, occurring at least once a week for at least 3 consecutive months.
- C. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures, occurring at least once every 2 months for at least 4 consecutive months:
- D. Dyscognitive (focal) seizures, occurring at least once every 2 weeks for at least 3 consecutive months.
- Physical functioning (standing, balancing, using arms and hands); or
- Understanding, remembering, or using information; or
- Interacting with others; or
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
- Adapting or managing oneself (controlling emotions and behavior in the workplace).
For C and D, in addition to experiencing seizures, you must also have a marked limitation in one of the following:
Social Security requires you to have frequent seizures that are well documented – by your doctors, yourself, and your friends, family and co-workers.
- Try to see a doctor when a seizure occurs.
- Keep a diary of seizure episodes. Though a diary does not carry the same weight as a doctor’s record, it will still be seen by a claims examiner and an administrative law judge and strengthen your case.
- Keep your family, friends and co-workers informed about your medical condition. Social Security may call your employer, family and friends and ask questions about your medical condition.
- Take prescribed medications and follow treatment. If you don’t, Social Security may presume that you would not have seizures if you did take medication and followed your doctor’s recommendations and deny your application.
If your seizure disorder doesn’t meet the criteria of Social Security’s listing, you may still be eligible for a medical-vocational allowance if your seizure disorder interferes with your work and there is no job you can do safely and consistently.
Social Security will consider your medical condition, symptoms, age, level of education, work skills and any restrictions prescribed by your doctor, such as no driving or working near machinery. If you are older than 55 with few transferable work skills and less education, your chances for being approved are greater.
Additionally, if you have other medical conditions, Social Security must consider how those health issues, combined together, limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.
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 you have multiple medical conditions, Social Security must consider how those health issues, combined together, limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks.
If you have frequent seizures that prevent you from full-time employment, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Income, but it may be difficult to qualify.
An experienced Social Security disability attorney can help you evaluate your eligibility and chances for approval. The filing process can be long and tedious, but a qualified attorney can increase your chances for approval.
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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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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