Despite the transformation to digital communication, most of us still need our vocal cords to perform admirably on the job. For example, let’s say you send a colleague an email reminding her about an upcoming seminar.
You do not hear back for a few days and you decide to ask the colleague whether she received the email. Although you initially communicated through a digital channel, it took your strong voice to verify your colleague received the email.
It is a simplistic example that underscores the important our voices have at work. If you lose your voice, are you eligible to receive Social Security disability compensation? The answer is yes, but you have to suffer a loss of speech for 12 consecutive months, as well as present convincing evidence that you lost your voice and that it cost you money in terms of lost wages.
Speech Loss - Condition and Symptoms
When you lose your speech, many of the simplest of life’s activities become significantly more difficult. In addition, it can be hard to find employment which can be performed without being able to speak and communicate with co-workers, supervisors, or clients/customers.
Loss of speech can be attributable to a wide variety of medical causes. Depending on the circumstances, speech loss may be temporary and treatable with therapy, or may be irreversible. Loss of speech can have physical, neurological, or even psychological causes.
The most common causes of loss of speech in adults include:
- Head Injuries
- Brain Tumors
Some conditions (notably strokes and head injuries) typically cause you to lose your speech suddenly, while other conditions (such as various forms of dementia and brain tumors) can cause a gradual, progressive loss of speech.
Some people who suffer from speech loss also lose the ability to make sounds, while others can make sound but can’t form those sounds into intelligible words. Loss of speech can range from the complete inability to make any vocalization to a mere inability to name specific people, places, colors, etc. Often, those who retain some ability to speak will have difficulty choosing particular types of words (commonly nouns).
Depending on the circumstances, those who have suffered loss of speech may be treated with one of two types of treatment:
- Direct Treatment - this method uses several types of exercises designed to help a person with speech loss to regain actual speech.
- Substitute Skill Treatment - this method attempts to improve the quality of life for someone who has lost their speech by teaching them to communicate using other means, such as a writing tablet or signs.
Often, a combination of both types of treatment is used, with the substitute skill method being used to help the person cope with the immediate situation of not being able to speak and the direct treatment attempting to help the patient gradually regain the ability to speak.
You Need Medical Evidence to Support a Loss of Voice Claim
One of the most common reasons the SSA denies a loss of voice disability application is because there was not enough medical evidence to support the disability claim. You need to attach medical documents signed by licensed medical professionals that confirm you lost your voice for more than 12 months in a row.
A diagnostic test signed by your doctor starts the paper trail that eventually leads to the approval of your disability application. You also want to include signed medical documents that confirm tests and treatment procedures. Without medical documents backing up your claim, you can expect the SSA to deny your disability application.
Include Loss of Wages Documentation
Submitting medical documents as part of your disability application is just about half of the battle to get your claim approved. The SSA might determine your loss of speech claim is valid, but the amount of money you asked for is too much for the agency to approve your disability application.
In addition to attaching medical documents to your disability application, you should also attach every bill associated with the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of your compromised vocal cords.
You also need to submit evidence that specifies how much money you lost because of little or no job compensation. Start by sending the SSA the W2 forms you filed for the last two years.
This proves how much money you made per year. Then, include the W2 for the year when you were unable to work. You should also attach copies of your most recent federal income tax forms to substantiate your lost wages claim.
Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits with Loss of Speech
The Social Security Administration’s Blue Book groups loss of speech with other sensory losses such as loss of sight, loss of hearing, and loss of visual acuity. The listing is found in section 2.00 Special Senses and Speech.
To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based solely on loss of speech, you must be unable to speak by any means, including with the aid of electronic or mechanical equipment designed to help you to speak or to make your voice and articulation clearer.
Often, loss of speech is evaluated based on the listing of the condition which has caused the loss of speech. This is especially common in the case of neurological disorders. If your loss of speech is due to a neurological disorder, the Blue Book listing in section 11.00 may be used to determine whether you meet eligibility criteria for Social Security Disability benefits.
In the case that the SSA is adjudicating a case solely on loss of speech (as mentioned earlier, this is often not the case), proving total disability can be difficult. In order to qualify for benefits for loss of speech, regardless of what has caused the loss of speech, a claimant must prove that they suffer from complete inability to make any speech which can be listened to and comprehended, or an inability to produce meaningful speech for a sustained period.
The documentation required for filing for Social Security Disability benefits can vary widely depending on what has caused the loss of speech. The SSA will want to see all pertinent documentation regarding the condition which caused you to lose the ability to speak, as well as any testing which has been conducted regarding the claimant’s inability to speak. They will also need to see documentation regarding all treatments and therapies being attempted to help restore speech, including the response (if any) you have had to the treatments.
Your Speech Loss Disability Case
Most disability claimants find it to be in their best interests to contract a Social Security disability lawyer to represent them. The services of an experienced disability lawyer can prove invaluable because they have worked extensively with local Disability Determination Services (DDS)and SSA judges, and know what evidence and documentation the SSA is looking for before they can approve your claim.
As many as 70% of claimants are denied Social Security benefits at the initial stage of application, often for reasons as small as missing or incorrectly expressed or filed medical documentation. A Social Security disability lawyer will often catch these issues before a denial is issued. If a denial has already been given, then your attorney will be able to help you with the request for reconsideration.
Further, a Social Security Disability lawyer will never charge an up-front fee, and in fact only receives payment if he or she wins your claim. Even then, all lawyer’s fees will be processed as a simple percentage deduction from back disability pay received at the time benefits are awarded.
An evaluation with a Social Security Disability attorney is always free. To speak with a qualified Social Security attorney in your area, fill out a free disability consultation request today.