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Stroke and Social Security Disability

Stroke (Cerebrovascular Accident) - Condition and Symptoms

Stroke, cerebrovascular accident, or CVA are the names given to the sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen caused by impaired blood flow to the brain. There are four types of Stroke. Cerebral thrombus is a blockage caused by a blood clot in a brain artery, usually due to atherosclerosis. Cerebral embolus is a blood clot formed outside the brain that travels to the brain to cause blockage of a brain artery. Cerebral hemorrhage is a burst blood vessel in the brain that bleeds into the surrounding tissue which may be caused by the rupture of a cerebral aneurysm. A subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding on the surface of the brain, between the brain and the skull, also caused by a burst blood vessel. A fifth type of Stroke, called a TIA (transient ischemic attack) is caused by a temporary decrease in blood supply to the brain, but symptoms usually resolve within 24 hours. Unlike the other types of Stroke, TIAs don’t leave lasting effects. All Strokes, regardless of cause, disrupt the flow of blood through the brain and damage brain tissue.

It is important to get medical care immediately if a Stroke is suspected. The longer a Stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability. Although you may be displaying classic symptoms of Stroke, your doctor will still need to rule out other possible causes. Brain tumors, viral infections, and dehydration, among other conditions, can cause symptoms similar to Stroke.

To make the diagnosis, your doctor will obtain a medical history from you or a family member to determine the type and onset of your symptoms, what medications you take, and whether you have had a recent head injury. He or she will also give you a physical examination, checking your blood pressure, listening to your heart, and looking for cholesterol crystals in the blood vessels of your eyes. A CAT scan or MRI is often ordered to reveal any bleeding in the brain and an echocardiogram may be ordered to find blood clots. Carotid ultrasounds will let your doctor see if the carotid artery is narrow, and blood tests can show whether there is inflammation which can suggest inflamed arteries. Blood tests will show the rate at which your blood clots and whether your blood chemicals are out of balance.

If you are having a Stroke, you may experience confusion, or trouble speaking or understanding others. You may notice numbness or weakness, especially on one side of your body. You may have trouble seeing, or experience a severe headache. All these symptoms appear suddenly, for no apparent reason.

The residual effects of Stroke depend on the area of the brain affected and how soon medical care is found. The most common symptom is paralysis, usually more pronounced on one side of the body than the other. The paralysis may affect not only the arms and legs, but also the face. Numbness or tingling of the affected muscles is common, as are problems with speech, vision, balance, swallowing, and even breathing.

Treatments include use of anticoagulants, normalization of blood pressure with medication, controlling glucose levels in the blood, and administration of oxygen. Once the acute stage of Stroke is past, patients are usually transferred to a nursing facility for rehabilitation therapies to help them regain the use of the parts of their bodies which were affected by the Stroke. Some people recover from Stroke completely, some recover with lasting disabilities, and some do not survive the initial acute attack.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Diagnosis of Stroke

Because the residual effects of Stroke cannot be determined until time has passed and treatment has been evaluated, and because different individuals recover at different rates, you must wait at least three months after a Stroke to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate the effects of your Stroke in determining whether you qualify for disability benefits. SSA will then determine what you are able to do, despite your Stroke, taking into consideration your education level and your age. Age is often the determining factor.

Your disability claim may also be approved on the basis of meeting the requirements of Section 11.04 of the Blue Book, Central Nervous System Vascular Accident.

SSA’s listing for Stroke requires the following:

  1. You must be evaluated no sooner than three months after your Stroke.
  2. Your medical records must document either symptoms under Paragraph A or symptoms under Paragraph B as residual effects from your Stroke:
  • A) Ineffective speech or communication that results from sensory or motor aphasia (the loss of ability to speak or comprehend due to brain illness or injury) OR
  • B) Persistent, significant motor function caused by paresis or paralysis, tremor, or other involuntary movement that affects at least two of your limbs and seriously affects your ability to grasp and manipulate objects and/or to safely walk and move around.

SSA will make its decision based on your current and projected level of functional restriction. In making its decision, SSA will review your medical records, including treatment notes, admission and discharge summaries, lab and imaging studies, and also supporting statements from your physicians.

It is always a good idea to consult a Social Security disability attorney or other professional who is familiar with filing disability benefits claims with SSA to help you assemble your records and present your case.

Your Stroke Disability Case

If you are disabled because of residual Stroke symptoms so severe that they prevent you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. 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 Stroke disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.