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I became less mobile after a stroke – do I qualify for disability?

The experience of having a stroke can be terrifying all by itself. However, many strokes leave patients with residual effects that limit mobility and affect their lives in a dramatic way. Their lives are permanently altered.

A stroke that causes severe residual effects is often clearly qualified for disability benefits. Sometimes though, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will grant benefits even when a stroke produces more mild deficits, like decreased mobility.

The SSA’s Disability Listing

The most clear-cut method of qualifying for benefits is to meet a listing in the SSA’s Blue Book. The stroke listing appears in section 11.04 and describes the severity level of post-stroke deficits necessary for “automatic” disability approval.

This listing describes devastating losses in functional ability, like paralysis or the inability to communicate effectively. A change in mobility level is therefore not sufficient for achieving an automatic approval, but you may still be able to qualify for benefits.

Navigating these listings can be a bit difficult to do by yourself, which is why some patients choose to consult with an attorney before and while filing their claim.

Residual Functional Capacity

If you don’t meet the disability listing, then the SSA will review your residual functional capacity (RFC). During this process, they examine all of your mental and physical limitations. Having as much documentation as possible of your mental and physical limitations could be beneficial during this process.

Do I qualify for disability if I became less mobile after a stroke?

When an RFC shows that you have functional limitations that get in the way of performing essential job duties, then you may qualify for what’s known as a Medical Vocational Allowance or MVA. An MVA means you cannot work in any job and that you’re therefore eligible for disability.

Medical Vocational Allowances

Your mobility challenges may stop you from returning to work in your traditional field, especially if your former job required you to be on your feet all the time, walk significant distances, or other similarly physical duties.

To receive benefits through an MVA though, the SSA must also find that you can’t work in any other job either (even a sedentary one, like an office job). This means they must look at your:

  • age,
  • education,
  • job training,
  • work history,
  • and other job skills.

These details allow them to decide if you have the skills and abilities to find other work in which your mobility challenges wouldn’t prevent you from performing essential job functions. Generally speaking, an MVA is easier to achieve if you have limited transferable skills and you’re an older worker (i.e., 50 or above).

For example, if you’ve spent your entire career working on a production line, then you may not have learned new skills that would let you get an office job. Even though your mobility challenges wouldn’t stop you from performing sedentary work, your lack of formal education or training would.

In a case like this, the SSA would find you disabled. However, if your former work, education, or training gave you the knowledge and skills for succeeding in an office job, then you could be denied benefits, even if your mobility challenges are significant.

Getting Help with RFC and MVA-based Disability Claim

Winning a disability claim through an MVA can be a challenge, especially if you have some transferable skills, formal education, or other job qualifications that draw your eligibility into question.

A disability attorney can help you figure out if you might qualify. He or she can also help you build a strong claim right from the start, assist with your application, and potentially increase your chances of approval, especially if you must appeal a denial of benefits.