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Hydrocephalus and Social Security Disability

Cerebrospinal fluid, while essential to brain health, becomes an issue when too much fluid builds up inside the skull, resulting in a condition called Hydrocephalus, the main symptom of which is swelling of the brain. Other symptoms include nerve damage, memory loss, headaches, vision issues, nausea and vomiting, difficulty thinking clearly and concentrating, personality changes, fatigue, and coordination and balance issues, among others.

Additionally, surgically implanted shunts, which are the most common treatment for the condition, require constant attention and consistent monitoring to ensure effective treatment and to prevent or deal with complications. Complications can include a number of other symptoms as well as serious, even life threatening, problems.

There are two forms of hydrocephalus that typically affect adults: ex-vacuo and normal pressure. Normal pressure hydrocephalus usually occurs slowly, with cerebrospinal fluid levels building up over time after an inflection, brain tumor, head injury or a blood vessel issue inside the brain tissue. Ex-vacuo hydrocephalus, on the other hand, comes on quickly following an accident, traumatic brain, a stroke, or a similarly serious and physically traumatic event.

Hydrocephalus and Qualifying for SSD under the Blue Book

Neither of the adult forms of hydrocephalus are among the listings that appear in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) “Blue Book”, which is the manual utilized by SSA staff in evaluating commonly disabling medical conditions for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefit eligibility. This means that in order for you to be found eligible for benefits based on a diagnosis of hydrocephalus, you must show your condition is as serious as, and causes equivalent impairment to, a condition that does appear in the Blue Book.

In some SSD applications, hydrocephalus is actually a symptom of another listed condition. If this is true for you, then you’ll want to ensure that your application and medical records match the listing in the SSA’s Blue Book for your primary condition, rather than applying simply based on your hydrocephalus.

In cases where hydrocephalus is the main condition for which you’re applying for SSD benefits, you’ll want to attempt to “match” your application and medical records to listed impairment, proving your condition is as severe as the listed disability. Common conditions that hydrocephalus SSD applications are compared with include:

Hydrocephalus and a Medical Vocational Allowance

Even if your symptoms don’t meet or equal those of a listed condition, you may still qualify for SSD benefit. To do so, you must show your condition severely limits your ability to gain and maintain employment, allowing you to be approved for disability under a “medical vocational allowance”. This essentially means that while your application doesn’t qualify under standard SSD eligibility, you still meet the general requirements for receiving SSD benefits, based on your medical condition and the limitations it imposes on you.

When determining if a medical vocational allowance is appropriate in your case, the SSA will evaluate the sensory, physical and mental limitations imposed by your hydrocephalus, as reflected in:

  • your medical records,
  • statements from your treating physicians,
  • and other supporting documentation

They will also evaluate the type of work you’re otherwise qualified to perform and whether your symptoms prevent you from finding and keeping a job that requires those same qualifications. Specifically, hydrocephalus can limit your ability to:

  • complete work in a timely manner,
  • interact appropriately with coworkers,
  • take direction from a supervisor,
  • stand, walk, lift or carry,
  • hear or see properly,
  • and concentrate or remember information

The SSA takes all your abilities, including work skills, history, education, and other qualifications into account. They also evaluate all your limitations, including those directly related to hydrocephalus as well as those that result from any other medical conditions you may have. All of these details are taken into consideration when determining if you meet the eligibility criteria to receive SSD benefits.

Getting Help with Your Hydrocephalus SSD Application

Because hydrocephalus is not among the SSA’s listed conditions, medical documentation and other substantiating details of your application are crucially important in your SSD case. You’ll need to work closely with your treating physician to determine which listed condition your hydrocephalus most closely matches, and to ensure your application and medical records clearly reflect all the details of your unique circumstances and the symptoms and limitations that result from your hydrocephalus.

You may want to seek help from a Social Security advocate or attorney with your claim as well. A lawyer or advocate can assist with filing your initial application and supporting documentation and can also help with any reconsideration reviews and/or appeals that may be necessary in your SSD claim.