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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Social Security Disability

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome - Condition and Symptoms

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) refers to mental and physical defects that can affect the unborn babies of women who drink alcohol during pregnancy. While some mothers who drink during pregnancy give birth to healthy infants, there is no particular amount of alcohol that is deemed safe by medical authorities to consume during pregnancy. Larger amounts of alcohol tend to increase the number and severity of defects in the infant. While it appears that drinking causes the most damage in the first 90 days of pregnancy, alcohol consumption at any time during pregnancy is unsafe, especially since the brain develops the entire nine months of gestation.

The birth defects resulting from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are caused by alcohol crossing the placenta to the fetus. Some of the affects of alcohol on the fetus are stunted growth and weight, a damaged central nervous system, including impaired brain functioning, and deformities of the head and face. Children can be born with an addiction to alcohol, mental health problems, behavioral problems, attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, poor memory, heart abnormalities, and brain damage, including mental retardation. It is not uncommon for infants to be stillborn or premature. Almost no child affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has normal brain development.

If a woman’s fetus does not appear to be growing normally, the doctor may order blood tests to determine the existence of alcohol or an ultrasound to confirm slow growth of the fetus. If a baby is born with some symptoms of FAS, such as low birth weight, poor muscle tone, or facial characteristics symptomatic of the condition, then the doctor will give the infant a physical examination to determine the existence and extent of birth defects. Tests may include a toxicology screen, blood tests, and scans for heart murmurs or other heart problems.

Infants with FAS are usually smaller in the womb and at birth, have poor muscle tone and poor coordination, may show physical and mental developmental delays and problems with cognition, speech, and motor skills, have heart abnormalities, and display certain facial characteristics such as narrowed eyes, an abnormally small head and/or jaw, and a smooth groove in the upper lip. Infants can also have deformed joints, kidney problems, light sensitivity, and other physical birth defects.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is lumped together with other conditions that result in birth defects, developmental delays, and mental retardation in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is mentioned specifically in Paragraph C.2 of Section 10.00 Multiple Body Systems – Adult and in Paragraph C.2 of Section 110.00 Multiple Body – Childhood. These sections both discuss mosaic Down syndrome at length. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other conditions which cause similar “multiple body symptoms” are mentioned only in the one paragraph, with no listing requirements being given.

In order to apply for disability benefits based on a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, your medical records should 1) confirm the diagnosis, 2) detail your symptoms, and 3) document the limitations that each symptom imposes on you. The Social Security Administration (SSA) bases its rulings for disability benefits on how you are able to function, despite your condition, the severity of your condition, and the treatments that are available to you. SSA terms this your “residual functional capacity,” and it is therefore important when you file for disability benefits that your records address your residual functional capacity by illustrating the limitations your condition imposes. If the limitations imposed by your disability prevent you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

Since the process of applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be confusing, especially with respect to assembling appropriate and effective medical records, it is helpful to hire a professional who is familiar with SSA requirements, such as a Social Security disability attorney or advocate, to help with this process.

Your Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disability Case

If you are disabled because of symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome that are so severe they prevent you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Although total disability based on a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can be difficult to prove compared to other disabling conditions since there is no separate listing for this condition, working closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation to support your disability claim in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS) can help to ensure that your Fetal Alcohol Syndrome disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.