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Stiff Person Syndrome and Social Security Disability

The Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits application process can be quite lengthy, with most people waiting at least three months for their initial application to be reviewed. On average, about 70 percent of applications are initially denied benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Denials occur for a variety of reasons, though insufficient medical documentation supporting the disability claim is the most common cause.

If denied SSD benefits, the applicant must proceed through a second review. If denied benefits again, the decision can be appealed, and each step in the process increases the wait for benefits by several months at least. The entire process, from first review to final appeal, can take a year or more, with some applicants waiting more than two years for a final determination on eligibility.

For anyone suffering from a severe disability or terminal illness, waiting months or years for a decision on eligibility for benefits is impossible. For this reason, the SSA implemented the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program in 2008, which allows for the expedited processing of disability applications which contain certain diagnoses, now including Stiff Person Syndrome.

Currently, there are 113 conditions which fall under the CAL program. Come August 13, 2012, there will be 52 more conditions added to the list of disabilities which qualify for expedited processing under the SSA’s CAL guidelines. Stiff Person Syndrome is among those that will become active on the list in August of this year.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of Stiff Person Syndrome, the information which follows will help you understand the SSA’s disability claims review process. It will also provide you some insight into how to more quickly see disability benefits approved under the CAL guidelines.

Stiff Person Syndrome – Condition and Symptoms

Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) is a rare disorder of the neurological system that appears to be autoimmune in nature, thought the exact cause is unknown. The main symptoms of SPS include fluctuating degrees of muscle rigidity in the limbs and trunk and hypersensitivity to touch, noise and emotional stress, all of which can send the individual affected by SPS into muscle spasms.

Many who suffer from SPS also have abnormal posture, with a hunched and stiff stance, and difficulty walking. Some may be too disabled to walk or move without assistance. Those who can are often too afraid to leave the house, as the uncontrolled noises outside can trigger violent muscle spasms, loss of balance and frequent falls which can be quite dangerous, resulting in other serious injuries.

SPS affects women much more often than men and is commonly found in combination with other autoimmune disorders and diseases like pernicious anemia, diabetes and thyroiditis. Because the condition is relatively rare and symptoms are similar to those seen in other medical conditions, it is often misdiagnosed initially. A definitive diagnosis requires a blood test to look for elevated levels of specific antibodies, namely glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD).

Treating SPS requires high doses of anti-convulsant and anti-anxiety medications and other drugs, like pain relievers and muscle relaxants. Intravenous immunoglobulin treatment has shown some promise in resent studies for lowering hypersensitivity and stiffness symptoms.

While drug treatments can help control or reduce symptoms, there is no cure for Stiff Person Syndrome. Most who suffer from the disorder have pronounced physical and emotional limitations, though they can live a normal lifespan, with symptoms relatively under control with appropriate treatment. Work, social and other life style limitations caused by SPS leave those afflicted with the condition severely disabled regardless of how effective medical treatment may be, which is why the SSA recently approved the condition for inclusion in the CAL program for SSD benefits.

Filing for Social Security Disability with Stiff Person Syndrome

You must have extensive medical records in any claim for SSD. This is true even if your disability falls under the CAL program. In other words, even with a diagnosis of Stiff Person Syndrome, automatic approval of benefits is not guaranteed.

You will still need to provide adequate documentation related to the diagnosis and treatment of the condition, including all your medical records, lab and other test results, and statements from treating physicians. The more detailed the medical documentation you include in your application for SSD, the less likely you are to see delays in your approval for disability benefits.

Your Stiff Person Syndrome Social Security Disability Case

While Stiff Person Syndrome is now considered a Compassionate Allowance by the SSA, and therefore qualifies for expedited processing, the diagnosis alone is not enough to be found eligible for disability benefits. You must include substantial proof of disability in your application. A Social Security Disability lawyer can help you through the application and review processes, assist in getting the right documentation into your case file, and may be able shorten your wait for benefits as well.

To learn more about the Social Security Compassionate Allowance listings or to discover whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits with a diagnosis of Stiff Person Syndrome, request a free case evaluation today.