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Can I get Disability Benefits for a Speech Disorder?

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 a speech disorder?

Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:

One of the main ways we express our thoughts, feelings and ideas to one another is through speech. A speech disorder can prevent a person from communicating effectively and impact their employment and personal life. If you have a speech disorder you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

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If you are experiencing loss of speech and it has prevented you from working full-time, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Income.

Speech disorders can affect a person at any age and occur when a person is unable to produce sounds correctly or has problems with their voice.

Symptoms of speech disorders include:

  •    Difficulty pronouncing words correctly
  •   Struggling to say the correct word or sound
  •   Repeating or distorting sounds
  •   Adding sounds or syllables to words
  •   Rearranging syllables
  •   Speaking with a hoarse or raspy voice
  •   Speaking very softly

These or a combination of these symptoms can cause you to miss work and jeopardize your ability to maintain employment.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association estimates that approximately 5% -10% of Americans may have a communication disorder and more than 3 million Americans stutter.

There are many types of speech impairments that can impact a person’s ability to speak.

  •    Dysarthria. Muscle weakness in the face and throat caused by injury to the brain results in slurred speech, speaking very softly, mumbling, speaking too slowly or too quickly.
  •    Spasmodic dysphonia. Involuntary movements of the vocal cords cause hoarseness in the voice.
  •    Apraxia. Brain damage impairs a person’s motor skills and affects their ability to form sounds and words, even when the individual knows what they want to say.
  •    Stuttering. A disorder that interrupts the flow of speech, involuntarily repeating words or sounds.
  •    Dysprosody. A neurological disorder characterized by changes in volume, rhythm, cadence and intonation of words.
  •    Aphasia. A language disorder caused by a stroke or brain damage that affects speech, listening, reading and writing.
  •    Muteness. Inability to speak caused by damage to the brain or speech muscles, or the result of emotional or psychological trauma.

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

Treatment for a speech impairment depends on the severity of the disorder and its underlying cause(s).

Typically, treatment involves exercises that focus on building familiarity with words and sounds as well as physical exercises to strengthen the muscles used in speaking. Medication may also be prescribed to alleviate any anxiety or stress a patient may be experiencing. Demonstrating that you are following your doctor’s treatment plan is an important part of qualifying for disability benefits.

Speech Impairments and Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

If your speech impairment is so severe it prevents you from working and interferes with your daily tasks, you may be eligible for SSDI benefits.

Basically, there are two ways to qualify: 1) you must meet the requirements of an impairment listing in Social Security’s Blue Book; or 2) you must be unable to perform any job safely because of your speech impairment.

Social Security lists loss of speech as an impairment under Section 2.09.

To qualify for SSDI under this listing you must be unable to produce any speech that can be “heard, understood, or sustained.” This means that if you use esophageal speech speech (a method of speaking which is used by individuals whose larynx has been removed) or electronic devices such as an electrolarynx (a battery-operated machine that produces sound to create a voice) to articulate and you can speak well enough to be understood by others, you probably won’t meet the criteria of this listing. You do not need to provide a specific cause for your speech impairment, but you do need to provide evidence that you are not able to communicate effectively with others.

Social Security will only use the Section 2.09 Loss of speech listing to evaluate your impairment if your speech impairment is related to the physical structures of speech; that is, the larynx, tongue or pharynx.

If another medical condition such as a stroke, traumatic brain injury or cerebral palsy is responsible for your speech impairment, your disability will be evaluated under that Blue Book listing. Likewise, if your speech impairment is caused by a mental disorder, it will be evaluated under that impairment.

In order to qualify, you will need to provide documentation to Social Security proving the severity of your speech impairment and its impact on your employment and finances.

With your application you should submit:

  •    Statements from doctors confirming loss of speech (for at least 12 months)
  •   Results of diagnostic tests performed by speech pathologists
  •   Treatment procedures and responses to treatment
  •   Medical invoices associated with diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation

If your disability doesn’t match a Social Security impairment listing criteria, but still impacts your work life severely, Social Security will perform a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment to determine how your speech impairment affects your job performance.

Speech disorders create barriers to communication, making it difficult to talk on the phone, interact with customers or coworkers, and respond to directions from supervisors. Social Security will evaluate your ability to speak, hear, feel and adapt to your environment, as well as your ability to understand instructions, complete tasks in a timely manner, and handle stress at work. The RFC may conclude that you cannot work in any job that requires proper speech, such as teaching, sales, or phone work. If you are no longer able to perform the tasks of your previous job, Social Security will consider other jobs you can do. If you are 55 or older with limited education and job skills, Social Security may find there is no other work you can perform and approve Social Security Disability benefits.

Additionally, 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.

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 another impairment; for example, high blood pressure, you may still be eligible for SSDI.

If you are experiencing loss of speech and it has prevented you from working full-time, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Income.

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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"Words can not truly express the gratitude that I feel toward Mr. Lonnie Roach and his professional team. I give them an A+++. Very compassionate and prompt. Their priorities are first and foremost helping you succeed at your case. When you feel helpless, feeling like someone is on your side can mean the world to you. Thank you for working for the people."
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Attorney Lloyd BemisAuthor: 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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