Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal government program that provides income to some people who can longer work because of a disabling impairment. Many people have found they qualify for SSDI benefits because of neurological disorders—ailments of the nervous system, spinal cord, and brain.
Neuropathy is one of those conditions.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes both peripheral neuropathy and diabetic neuropathy as potentially disabling conditions that may qualify applicants to received SSDI benefits. Every application is considered on a case-by-case basis to determine the severity of impairment, responsiveness to treatment, and likely course of the ailment. To be considered as a disabling condition under Social Security rules, an ailment must be expected to last at least 12 months or to result in the death of the patient.
Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord. It is typically characterized by pain, tingling, and numbness in the hands or feet. The damaged nerve cells along a particular pathway react by failing to carry signals (thus leading to sensations of numbness) or by sending signals when there is no appropriate physical stimulus (thus causing pain and tingling). In some of the most serious cases, called autonomic neuropathy, internal organs can also be affected. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by infection, exposure to toxic materials (including some forms of chemotherapy), traumatic injury or pressure, other diseases, or poor nutrition, but no specific cause can be found for many cases. It is estimated that around 20 million Americans have some degree of peripheral neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy is the most common form of peripheral neuropathy. Exposure to high levels of blood glucose can cause damage to nerve cells in the patients with diabetes, but the exact mechanisms for these changes are unknown. Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy typically begin with pain, numbness, and tingling sensations in the extremities. Over time, the symptoms can include wasting away of the muscles in feet and hands, digestive and urinary system problems, weakness, and dizziness or fainting.
As both kinds of neuropathy progress over time, it’s common to see nerve damage worsen from sensory problems into loss of motor control. Walking may become difficult, and the patient may be at risk of falling. Fine muscle control may make carrying on the activities of daily life a challenge.
Typically, the Social Security Administration will authorize disability benefits for peripheral neuropathy or diabetic neuropathy when the disease causes sustained incapacity in at least two extremities. This may consist of inability to move a hand with dexterity, the inability to maintain a foot in a stable standing position or to walk with a smooth gait, tremors, paralysis, or impaired coordination.
Filing your claim
Even if you have a neuropathy that is sufficiently severe to qualify for SSDI, you must meet several employment standards to be eligible for a benefit award. You can file the application online or at your nearest U.S. Social Security office. Be prepared to wait; there is currently a backlog of several months before your application will be reviewed.
Odds are that your first application will be denied. About 70 percent of all first-time applicants find their application for Social Security disability coverage is refused, often on technical grounds. Reapplying or appealing a denied claim is possible, but that means another round of paperwork and months more of waiting for a reply.
Hiring a Harrisburg Social Security attorney may be your shortcut to success. At Schmidt Kramer, our disability legal team is widely experienced in helping clients prepare applications, collecting medical documentation that supports their claims, and submitting all required employment data with a view to getting a favorable disability review the first time. We are thoroughly familiar with the spectrum of neurological disorders, including neuropathy. If you need aggressive legal representation that is determined to get you the disability benefits you need to survive, give us a call at 717-888-8888 or (888) 476-0807 toll-free to schedule a consultation about your case.