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. According to national averages, about 70 percent of applications are initially denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Denials occur for a variety of reasons, though insufficient medical documentation supporting disability status 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. 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 Tabes Dorsalis.
Currently, there are 113 conditions which fall under the CAL program. Come August 13, 2012, there will be 52 more added to the list. Tabes Dorsalis is among those which will become active in August of this year.
If you’ve received a diagnosis of Tabes Dorsalis, 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.
Tabes Dorsalis – Condition and Symptoms
Tabes Dorsalis is a degenerative neurological condition that results from an untreated syphilis infection. It is a rare condition because syphilis is usually caught and treated early in the disease; however, if left untreated, the infection damages the nerves in the spinal cord and can eventually damage the peripheral nerves as well.
Early symptoms of the condition include muscle weakness and abnormal sensations, like shooting pains that many patients describe as moving through the body like a bolt of lightning. As the disease progresses, afflicted individuals will begin to have problems walking and maintaining coordination.Widespread muscle weakness and loss of reflexes also commonly occur. Vision problems, mental illness and stroke are also possible due to central nervous system damage.
A simple blood test can show the presence of a syphilis infection, even when it’s in an inactive state where it produces minimal or no symptoms. A doctor may suspect Tabes Dorsalis when spinal cord damage is present in combination with abnormal pupil reaction to light, or when normal reflexes are absent or reduced during a physical examination. Physicians may run additional tests to definitively diagnose Tabes Dorsalis, including a spinal tap, head and spine CT, MRIs of the spinal cord and brain, and blood serum tests.
Treatment is focused on curing the primary syphilis infection and slowing the progression of the secondary disorder of Tabes Dorsalis. While there is no cure for Tabes Dorsalis and no reversing the damage which has already been done by the primary infection which was previously untreated, eliminating the infection can reduce further damage. Physicians and patients then focus on improving neurological and motor function through physical and occupational therapy and the use of medications.
The primary infection is treated with antibiotics. Mental illness, muscle weakness and other neurological symptoms may require a number of other medications. Pain medications may additionally be necessary. Those individuals who have difficulty performing everyday tasks, including dressing, feeding and bathing may need constant skilled nursing care.
When left untreated, progressive disability will result, but with treatment many people affected by Tabes Dorsalis are able to live normal life spans. Complications can result from the disorder though, especially if it went unchecked for years prior to effective treatment being employed. Complications can include serious and life threatening conditions, like heart damage, stroke, and paralysis.
Filing for Social Security Disability with Tabes Dorsalis
If you’re filing an application for disability with a diagnosis of Tabes Dorsalis, you should understand that the diagnosis alone is not enough to prove disability. You must have extensive medical records in any claim for SSD benefits. This is true even if your disability falls under the CAL program. In other words, even with a diagnosis of Tabes Dorsalis, 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.
Your Tabes Dorsalis Social Security Disability Case
While Tabes Dorsalis is now considered a standard condition in the Compassionate Allowances list by the Social Security Administration, and therefore qualifies for expedited processing, the diagnosis alone is not enough to prove SSD eligibility. You must include substantial proof of disability in your application to be found eligible for benefits. 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 to 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 Tabes Dorsalis, request a free case evaluation today.