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Tips on Applying for Disability Benefits with Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that results in severe drowsiness and fatigue during the day and being prone to fall asleep at any time. This disorder is extremely unpredictable and can be dangerous. There is no cure, but treatments such as medication and scheduled naps can reduce some of its effects.

Medical Evidence

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not recognize narcolepsy as a medical condition that automatically qualifies you for disability benefits. Therefore, you must provide a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment that provides evidence of your disorder and how it affects your ability to work.

Including certain medical evidence on your RFC may be helpful in proving that you qualify as disabled due to your narcolepsy. This evidence should include results from any sleep studies or tests on your brain, as well as tests based on your family’s medical history of sleep disorders. It is also helpful to keep a sleep journal that details your sleep pattern due to narcolepsy. Providing the SSA with medical evidence of any doctor’s appointments, treatments, and diagnosis of your narcolepsy will also be helpful in proving your case for disability benefits.

Non-Medical Evidence

A complete and thorough RFC will help in proving to the SSA that your narcolepsy makes it unable for you to work.

Your RFC should also detail the ways in which your narcolepsy prevents you from reasonably performing certain job functions. For instance, one of the common treatments for narcolepsy is frequent and regularly scheduled naps, so for you to be able to work at a job, your employer would need to allow these breaks as well as provide a comfortable area for you to sleep.

The SSA also will usually approve disability benefits if your RFC proves that your disorder would result in a 20% decrease in your productivity level. Taking frequent naps, as is recommended, can qualify you under that exception.

Other helpful factors to include on your RFC include statements from the neurologist you see for your narcolepsy that detail how the disorder affects your ability to walk, sit, stand, lift, carry, and more. For example, cataplexy, a common side effect of narcolepsy that affects your muscles, could limit your ability to perform any physically demanding jobs.

Also, narcolepsy usually causes extreme drowsiness, which could make jobs that involve the use of heavy machinery or any safety equipment extremely dangerous for a narcoleptic person.

You should provide the SSA with evidence of any medication you take for your narcolepsy, and make sure that your doctor details the side effects of these treatments on your RFC. These medications may, for example, prevent you from being able to concentrate, complete a number of tasks, and follow directions, which are commonly required abilities at many jobs.

The SSA will review your RFC, as well as your age, education level, and previous work experience, and determine if there is any job that you can reasonably be expected to perform with your narcolepsy. If there is no job you can perform, you will most likely be approved for disability benefits.