Narcolepsy and Social Security Disability

As a sleep disorder caused by a central nervous system malfunction, narcolepsy can be a very debilitating impairment. Primary symptoms include extreme drowsiness and falling asleep at any time without warning. Additional symptoms can include temporary paralysis upon waking, hallucinations, and sudden muscle weakness during exercise or while emotions are heightened.

Applying for SSD with Narcolepsy

The Social Security Administration (SSA) needs to determine the severity of your narcolepsy symptoms before making a determination on Social Security Disability (SSD) benefit eligibility. This means your application for benefits must contain detailed medical records that show:

  • A formal diagnosis
  • Frequency and duration of symptoms
  • Persistence of symptoms even when following prescribed medical treatments
  • Severe disruption of your ability to function due to symptoms

Additionally, the SSA does not have a predefined listing for narcolepsy among its potentially disabling conditions in its “Blue Book” manual. For this reason, in order to qualify for disability benefits, you’ll need to show your narcolepsy so severely impacts your “residual functional capacity” that you qualify for SSD benefits under a “medical vocational allowance”.

Residual functional capacity is the term used by the SSA to indicate your physical and mental capabilities with a limiting or impairing medical condition. It is measured based on activities of daily living, like your ability to drive, go to the store, clean your home, bathe, care and cook for yourself, and other essential everyday functions. It is also measured by looking at the kinds of physical and mental job duties or tasks you’re able to perform. You must ensure your medical records accurately reflect the limitations you experience due to your narcolepsy symptoms.

Necessary Medical Documentation to Prove Narcolepsy

A medical vocational allowance is a concept whereby you qualify for SSD benefits without meeting or matching the criteria for a listed medical condition in the SSA’s Blue Book. It means that your narcolepsy is severe enough to prevent you from finding and keeping a job – both in your previous field and in other positions that you might otherwise have been qualified to perform.

Medical records and other documentation are a crucial component of your application for SSD benefits. Your records should include information that supports your diagnosis, as well as records that reflect your symptoms and the treatments you’ve undergone in an effort to control those symptoms. Documentation contained in your application should include:

  • Diagnostic tests, like EEGs, sleep studies and other exams that also rule out other medical conditions
  • Medications you take and their affect on your symptoms as well as any side effects they cause
  • Other therapies that you’ve been prescribed, like a strict napping schedule for decreasing narcolepsy symptoms
  • Physician notes on your functional capacity, including any decreases in daily productivity or inability to complete certain tasks because of muscle weakness or drowsiness
  • Detailed statements from your doctor(s) reporting your condition, symptoms, outlook and overall status

Getting Help for Your Narcolepsy SSD Application

Because narcolepsy is not a listed condition with the SSA, you must ensure your application for SSD benefits contains thorough medical records and other documentation to support your disability claim. Your doctor can help you collect the right information to satisfy the SSA’s requirements. A Social Security attorney or advocate can also assist in collecting information and in reviewing your application and all your SSD forms for consistency, accuracy and to promote a quicker and favorable determination on your eligibility for benefits.

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