Epilepsy affects millions of people in the United States and is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system. This lifelong condition can impact a person’s quality of life and, in some cases, can prevent them from working altogether. Between out-of-pocket medical costs and lost wages, suffering from epilepsy can lead to significant financial burdens. Fortunately, disability benefits may be available to offset the overwhelming costs of epilepsy.
At Schaffer & Associates, we zealously advocate for the rights of disabled workers. We have spent three decades representing individuals who are unable to work due to their epilepsy, ensuring that they can receive the benefits they need and deserve. If you suffer from seizures that prevent you from working, you may qualify for disability for epilepsy. To learn more about how we can help you apply for and obtain benefits, or to discuss how you can appeal an unfairly denied decision, consider contacting us at (419) 350-8277 today.
What Are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a type of neurological disorder that is characterized by recurring, unprovoked seizures. Seizures occur when nerve cells fire rapidly and with less control, causing a sudden change in the electrical activity of the brain and impacting behavior. There are a range of different types of seizures, including focal seizures, absence seizures, and myoclonic seizures, to name a few.
Several factors can increase a person’s risk of having a seizure, including genetics, trauma to the head, sustained alcohol or drug use, and metabolic imbalances. While seizures manifest differently in everyone, the following are common symptoms of epileptic seizures:
- Uncontrollable jerking or shaking
- Temporary confusion
- Staring blanking into the distance
- Loss of consciousness
- Issues breathing
- Stiffening of the body
- Loss of bladder control
Epilepsy is typically a lifelong condition, but symptoms can be managed with treatment and lifestyle changes. Nonetheless, the symptoms of epilepsy can – and often do – impact a person’s ability to work and perform their job duties.
How Does Epilepsy Impact a Person’s Ability to Work?
Having recurrent and unpredictable seizures can make it more difficult to do certain kinds of work. An epilepsy diagnosis can entirely prevent a person from working in certain roles or positions, and some areas of employment are completely prohibited for individuals with epilepsy. For instance, a person with epilepsy cannot work as a train or tram operator, a commercial driver, or in a role that involves operating heavy machinery or working from heights.
Does Having Epilepsy Qualify You for Disability?
Since epilepsy can prevent a person from engaging in gainful employment, individuals with epilepsy may qualify for disability benefits. Generally, if a person meets the criteria for medical diagnosis in the Social Security’s listing for epilepsy and if the symptoms of their condition are expected to last twelve months or more, they may receive disability for epilepsy.
What Is the Difference Between Convulsive and Non-Convulsive Epilepsy?
The Social Security Administration splits epilepsy into two categories: convulsive epilepsy and non-convulsive epilepsy. Non-convulsive epilepsy is characterized by prolonged seizures that manifest as altered mental states rather than physical convulsions. These seizures typically last for thirty minutes or longer with cognitive or behavioral changes such as confusion, speech disturbance, and anxiety. While overt convulsions are usually not present, subtle motor signs such as twitching or blinking may occur in non-convulsive epileptic episodes.
Convulsive epilepsy, on the other hand, involves seizures that impact the entire body. These seizures often result in rapid, rhythmic, and sometimes violent movements of the body. In some cases, convulsive epileptic seizures can cause a loss of consciousness. These seizures are referred to as tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures.
What Is the Social Security Listing for Epilepsy?
To qualify for disability for epilepsy, a person must prove that they meet the criteria listed in Listing 11.02 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. You may qualify for disability benefits if you:
- Have experienced at least one tonic-clonic (convulsive) seizure per month for the last three consecutive months, even if you follow a prescribed treatment plan.
- Suffer from generalized tonic-clonic seizures at least once every other month for four or more consecutive months. In addition, you experience limitations in the areas of physical movement, ability to process information, ability to maintain pace, interaction with others, or management of oneself.
- Experience dyscognitive (non-convulsive) seizures at least once a week for three or more consecutive months, even if you are following a prescribed treatment plan.
- Have dyscognitive seizures at least once every other week for three or more consecutive months. In addition, you experience limitations in the areas of physical movement, ability to process information, ability to maintain pace, interaction with others, or management of oneself.
What Is Medical Vocational Allowance?
It is important to note that even if a person does not meet the exact criteria established in the Blue Book listing, they may still be eligible for disability benefits through the medical-vocational allowance path. This option is available for individuals who experience debilitating symptoms that are unlisted by the Social Security Administration. This could also include the combined effect of your symptoms if you suffer from epilepsy as well as other diagnosed medical conditions.
Receiving a medical vocational allowance requires a comprehensive review of your medical records and professional experience to determine which jobs would be suitable for you considering your diagnosis. If there are no suitable jobs available, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits.
How Can You Apply for Disability Benefits for Epilepsy?
You have several options at your disposal to apply for disability benefits for epilepsy. Many people prefer to use the online application due to convenience, but it is also possible to apply via phone or in-person at your local Social Security office. After you file a claim for disability benefits, your application will be reviewed and processed by the Social Security Administration, then a decision will be mailed to you. At Schaffer & Associates, we know how to effectively pursue disability benefits on behalf of our clients – including navigating the application process, corresponding with the Social Security Administration, and appealing unfairly denied claims.
What Types of Benefits Are Available?
Disability benefits come in two forms: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Social Security Disability Insurance provides the highest amount of compensation and is an option if you have worked and paid taxes for at least 5 of the past 10 years. Supplemental Security Income, on the other hand, is a more ideal avenue if you have little work history and/or low income. Some applicants may be eligible to receive both benefits.
What Types of Documents Do You Need for Your Application?
After deciding which benefit(s) you will apply for, it is time to begin compiling all necessary documents for your application. To prove that you meet the criteria outlined in Listing 11.02 of the Blue Book, you must be able to provide extensive evidence including all diagnoses, reports, and treatment measures that were taken for your epilepsy. In particular, the Social Security Administration will look for evidence such as:
- Results from imaging tests and neurological examinations such as MRI scans, x-rays, and EEG scans.
- Documentation of treatment plans that have been prescribed by your doctor.
- Evidence that you followed prescribed treatment plans.
- Doctors’ notes that report that your symptoms persist despite following the prescribed treatment plan.
If you are considering applying for disability for epilepsy, it is recommended that you keep detailed records of your seizures and the strategies used to treat them. It is also advised that you adhere to your prescribed treatment plan, as the Social Security Administration will consider this when making their decision.
Do You Need an Attorney to Apply for Disability Benefits?
When weighing the decision to apply for disability for epilepsy, it can be helpful to speak with an experienced attorney. Oftentimes, claims are initially denied due to a lack of sufficient and objective evidence regarding your diagnosis or your work limitations. Disability claims may also be denied if you cannot prove a causal relationship between your condition and your inability to work.
An attorney can guide you through the process of filing a claim, help you identify and organize all necessary documentation, and pursue an appeal if your claim is unfairly denied. By helping you avoid the common pitfalls that people experience while applying for benefits, seeking assistance from an experienced attorney can make all the difference in the success of your claim.
Hiring an Attorney to Help You Apply for Social Security Benefits for Your Epilepsy?
Epilepsy can have a major impact on your ability to perform everyday activities, including your basic occupational duties. If you suffer from epilepsy that impairs your ability to work, you may be eligible for disability benefits. Unfortunately, the application process for disability for epilepsy can be stressful and time-consuming, leading many people to seek assistance from experienced attorneys. At Schaffer & Associates, we understand how to secure the benefits you need and deserve. To discuss how we can help you obtain disability for epilepsy, consider connecting with our team at (419) 350-8277 today.