If you suffer from neuropathy and it is so severe it impacts your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Neuropathy is a rather generalized term. It can represent any or all diseases or malfunctions of the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, it is called peripheral neuropathy. All nerves and nerve pathways located outside the spinal cord and brain form the peripheral nervous system.
Your neuropathy could have developed gradually or it could have been sudden onset, and symptoms vary significantly from individual to individual. There are three ways to characterize neuropathy. It can be characterized by the kind of nerve that has been damaged, the location of the nerve damage within your body, and the disease process that causes it.
There are three main kinds of peripheral nerves – sensory nerves that control our senses, motor nerves that control voluntary movement, and autonomic nerves that control involuntary movement. Nerve damage that impacts on region of the body is mononeuropathy. Damage that occurs in many areas is called polyneuropathy. If you have symmetric neuropathy you are suffering from a disorder that is occurring in the same places on both sides of the body.
The disease process can be diabetic neuropathy, which is caused by diabetes. If it has an unidentified cause, it is called idiopathic neuropathy. It can be caused by many things, including inflammation, medications, liver failure, vitamin deficiencies, alcoholism, metabolic disorders, medications, vitamin deficiencies, and more.
Regardless of the cause, neuropathy can be a very debilitating disorder that can impact multiple aspects of an individual’s life. It can impact your ability to stand, walk, carry items, or lift. Neuropathy can impact your day to day functioning as well as your ability to work and perform your normal job duties. Your symptoms depend on the nerves affected and where it is located in the body. You could have more than one kind of nerve damaged.
The Cost of Treating Neuropathy
According to Cost Helper, neuropathy can be expensive to treat. If the symptoms are mild, a doctor could recommend something such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen over-the-counter which runs from $5 to $25. If an individual has more serious problems, a patient will need pain management methods, including prescription drugs. Health insurance will usually cover this and you will be responsible for co-pays and coinsurance costs ranging from 10% to 50%.
Prescriptions can range from $20 to $400 per month, depending upon the drug and if it is generic or brand name. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a non-invasive medical approach in which a device uses electrodes to release electrical current. This pain relieving approach usually costs around $700.
The SSA Evaluation and Medical Qualifications
The SSA has strict guidelines that are used to determine if an individual is disabled. They use a medical guide that is referred to as the Blue Book. Your neuropathy and underlying conditions will be considered together to determine whether or not you are disabled.
The Blue Book has two impairment listings to specifically deal with Peripheral Neuropathy, which are Section 9.08 and Section 11.14.
Section 9.08 focuses on neuropathy that is in conjunction with diabetes mellitus. In order to meet the section’s requirements, you must have been diagnosed with diabetes have neuropathy characterized by tremor, ataxia, paralysis, or involuntary movement in two of your arms or legs, causing you the inability to perform gross motor and fine movements, causing standing and walking limitations.
Section 11.14, which covers the Neurological System, addresses the peripheral neuropathies directly. In order to qualify under this listing, you must be diagnosed with neuropathy that is characterized by tremor, ataxia, paralysis, or involuntary movement in two of your arms or legs, causing you the inability to perform gross motor and fine movements, interfering with your walking and standing abilities.
Even if you do not meet the Blue Book requirements fully, you could still be eligible for SSDI through a medical vocational allowance if the SSA determines you are unable to return to you past work or transition to a new kind of work because of your functional limitations, work skills, age, and education.
Meeting Disability Criteria with an RFC
A residual functioning capacity (RFC) form is detailed and can help you get disability approval using a medical vocational allowance. You have your doctor complete the RFC in detail, listing your limitations, including how long you can stand or sit in a position without having to reposition, such as every 2 hours or so. It should also indicate any symptoms that you have, such as the inability to grasp or handle certain projects.
If you are on medication that impairs your functioning, like it causes fatigue, confusion, or dizziness, that should also be indicated. Explain how the pain and symptoms impact your ability to handle your regular tasks and your work duties. Your doctor needs to make it clear about how your medical issues impact your functioning and your ability to work or transition to a new kind of employment.
In the event your neuropathy is the result of a diabetes, your physician should also list the symptoms and side effects that you experience from your diabetes. Also note if it is difficult to control and the kind of medications you have tried to control your diabetes as these can have a role in whether or not you are considered disabled.
Applying Specific Medical Tests to Your Case for Disability Because of Neuropathy
Physical and neurological exams are used to diagnose neuropathy. There are many tests that can be used, including electroencephaolography (EEG), spinal tap, blood work, urine samples, CAT scans, MRI scans, electromyography, and conduction velocity studies. These tests help determine that you do suffer from neuropathy and what kind of neuropathy you are experiencing.
Neuropathy can be a complex disorder and can cause a variety of symptoms. The severity of the symptoms can depend upon the kind of neuropathy and the severity of the disorder. Applying for disability is a lengthy and complicated process, so it can be very time consuming. The more documentation you provide initially, the better it will be for your claim.
The SSA may order a medical evaluation at their expense to confirm your symptoms and level of disability. They choose a physician and schedule the appointment for you as part of the disability claims process. This appointment is not for medical treatment, but solely for an evaluation.
You have a lot to gain from a successful Social Security disability claim. A successful claim wouldn’t just mean consistent financial support for your ailment—it would also grant you the kind of stability that you may have been missing out on for years now. Unfortunately, winning a claim isn’t a cakewalk, which is why you should consider consulting a Social Security disability attorney or advocate. Your attorney will use his or her knowledge and experience to fight on your behalf and help you get the benefits you need—and you don’t even need to pay your lawyer unless you win. A successful Social Security claim could be life-changing, so don’t wait to get an evaluation and talk to a Social Security disability attorney as soon as possible.
If you are interested in applying for SSDI because of neuropathy, be sure to read our page on tips on applying for disability benefits with neuropathy.