Memory Loss and Social Security Disability

Memory loss can be a primary condition or symptom of another serious or chronic medical condition. For some people, severe memory loss occurs after a stroke or a brain injury, while others suffer from a serious, ongoing illness like depression, chronic fatigue syndrome or Parkinson’s, for example. There are also different forms of memory loss, including short and long term, as well as amnesia, dementia and other semi-permanent or permanent and severe cognitive impairments.

Applying for Social Security Disability with Memory Loss

No matter what causes the occurrence of memory loss, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will need to determine the severity of your symptoms before making a determination on Social Security Disability (SSD) benefit eligibility.

In order to meet SSD eligibility requirements, you must show that your memory loss is the result of a mental or physical condition that causes such severe cognitive deficits that you’re not only unable to perform the job duties of your most current position or your typical work, but also that you cannot work in another, less mentally demanding job either.

.In most instances, memory loss occurs as a result of another medical condition. This means you must meet the disability listing criteria for the condition that causes your memory loss in order to be found eligibility for SSD benefits.

For conditions such as amnesia, dementia or other organic mental disorders, the SSA has a predefined listing in its “Blue Book” outlining the criteria for eligibility with the diagnosis. The Blue Book is the manual of potentially disability conditions that’s used by SSA staff to evaluate disability applications. The section of the Blue Book applicable for Organic Mental Disorders is 12.02.

With a diagnosis of an organic mental disorder, your application for SSD benefits must include extensive medical records that document the diagnosis and the presence of a mental disorder that is physical in nature and has caused functional abnormalities, like the decline in mental capacity or the loss of ability to utilize previously mastered or acquired skills and abilities.

Under this listing, memory loss can be short term, intermediate, or long term, provided it presents a severe hardship to gaining and maintaining employment. Additionally, your application and medical records must document that your memory loss causes at least two of the following impairments in order to qualify for SSD benefits:

  • Severe limitations in the performance of everyday activities and tasks, which are termed “activities of daily living (ADLs)” by the SSA.
  • Loss of social functioning abilities.
  • Inability to remain focused, active and on task, or pronounced difficulties with completing activities at a “reasonable” pace.
  • Recurrent “episodes of decompensation”, which are periods during which your symptoms are significantly worse or more present than normal. Decompensation episodes must also be progressive, worsening and/or lasting longer with each subsequent episode.

In SSD applications in which memory loss is a secondary effect of another medical condition, like a stroke or brain injury, for example, you must meet the Blue Book listing for the original medical condition. In such a case, your medical documentation must show the presence of the organic condition was confirmed through widely accepted diagnostic tests or medical best practices.

The same is true for memory loss that is a symptom of another serious illness or chronic condition. Your application and medical records must prove your disability based on the Blue Book listing for the condition that causes your memory loss.

Medical Evidence to Prove Memory Loss

Medical evidence is crucial in any disability claim. In the case of memory loss SSD applications, there are several components boost the likelihood that you’ll be found eligible for benefits, including:

  • Thorough and complete records showing all the physical exams and diagnostic tests that you’ve undergone.
  • A detailed, signed statement from your treating physician, documenting your condition, the symptoms you experience, and the manner in which your memory is affected.
  • Evaluations that show you’re incapable of performing even simple or repetitive activities or tasks that require short or long term memory.
  • Evidence that available treatments, including therapy and medications have been ineffective in improving your condition, or in improving it to the point that you’re able to perform job duties in even unskilled positions.

Getting Help with Your Memory Loss SSD Application

Constructing a strong SSD application and compiling appropriate documentation for proving your disability can be challenging. You’ll need to work closely with your doctor to provide the SSA with thorough medical documentation for your claim. You should also consider the benefits of seeking help from a Social Security advocate or disability attorney to ensure your application is as foolproof as possible and clearly represents the limitations your memory loss imposes on you.


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