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Dysautonomia and Social Security Disability

Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe a number of medical disorders that can affect the autonomic nervous system, which is the section of the nervous system that controls organ function and other automatic body functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature regulation, and digestive processes, to name just a few. Among the conditions that can be included under the dysautonomia umbrella are orthostatic hypertension, pure autonomic failure, neurocardiogenic syncope, among others.

As dysautonomia disorders can affect multiple body systems and different regions of the body as well, the symptoms and the required treatments can vary widely, though some of the more common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, pain in the muscles and nerves, digestive problems, low blood pressure, sleep problems, and anxiety.

Applying for SSD with Dysautonomia

When applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits with dysautonomia, you must consider the area(s) of your body that are affected by the disorder. The Social Security Administration (SSA) utilizes a manual, known as the “Blue Book” to evaluate claims for disability benefits. In this manual are conditions that are known to potentially cause disability. While there is no single listing for dysautonomia that appears in the Blue Book, there are similar listings to which your medical condition can be compared in order to determine if your meet the eligibility requirements to receive SSD benefits.

By knowing the primary area of the body affected by your dysautonomia, you can narrow down the potential listings the SSA will compare your application with. This allows you to better understand the kind of medical records and other documentation that your application must contain in order to satisfy the SSA’s evidentiary requirements.

For example, if the major symptoms of your dysautonomia are related to heart function and blood pressure, then you’d need to review the Blue Book section for the Cardiovascular System (section 4.00) and try to “match” your medical records to those required for documenting a listed condition under this section.

Other sections of the Blue Book which may apply to an application for SSD benefits based on a diagnosis of dysautonomia may include:

The form of the dysautonomia you have, the symptoms you experience, and any other medical conditions you may have in conjunction with the dysautonomic disorder all affect your eligibility to receive SSD benefits. In order to substantiate a claim for disability, your application must include extensive medical records documenting:

  • your diagnosis
  • episodes of symptoms
  • how long episodes last and how frequently they occur
  • the kinds of treatments attempted and their affect on controlling your symptoms

Your documentation should also include statements from your doctor detailing:

  • the manner in which your symptoms appear
  • the affect those symptoms have on your daily life and abilities, including your ability to work
  • any other pertinent information regarding the manner in which your dysautonomia limits you

Qualifying for a Medical Vocational Allowance with Dysautonomia

How your dysautonomia affects your ability to perform everyday activities, including typical or common job functions, is known as “residual functional capacity”, and this concept can also be used by the SSA when evaluating your application for SSD benefits. This is especially true when you suffer from a condition for which there is no clear listed criteria in the SSA’s Blue Book.

When trying to decide if you meet the eligibility standards for receiving disability benefits, the SSA will first try to match your application to a listed condition. If they are unable to do this, then they will review your claim for a “medical vocational allowance” by examining your residual functional capacity. If you qualify for benefits under a medical vocational allowance, this basically means that although your application doesn’t match a listed condition, it is still severe enough to prevent you from seeking and maintaining gainful employment.

To be approved for disability benefits under a medical vocational allowance, your application and supporting medical documentation and other records must show that your dysautonomia prevents you from finding a job for which you may otherwise be qualified and continuously performing that job because of the symptoms you suffer.

In other words, despite your job skills, education, work history, and overall experience you’re still unable to perform the essential job duties of any position for which you are otherwise qualified, all because of the way your dysautonomia affects your residual functional capacity.

Getting Help with Your Dysautonomia SSD Application

Proving any disability claim can be challenging, and this is especially true when applying for benefits based on a condition for which there is no dedicated listing in the SSA’s Blue Book. To apply for SSD, you’ll need to work in coordination with your doctor to determine which condition to list as the primary one on your application for benefits. You’ll also want to review the Blue Book criteria for different conditions with your doctor and collect the right documentation and medical records support your argument for disability.

Taking advantage of the services of a disability lawyer or advocate is also advisable with any application for SSD benefits, but especially with those filed on a diagnosis like dysautonomia, for which there is no listed eligibility criteria. An attorney familiar with handling dysautonomia disability claims may best able to assist you, as he or she can help you compile records and documentation, fill out your application and other required forms, and prepare you for, and represent you at, an appeal hearing, if necessary.