Neuropathy and Social Security Benefits
If you suffer from neuropathy and it is so severe it impacts your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Neuropathy is a rather generalized term. It can represent any or all diseases or malfunctions of the peripheral nervous system. It can impact your whole body, from your hands to your feet.
Most commonly, it is called peripheral neuropathy. All nerves and nerve pathways located outside the spinal cord and brain form the peripheral nervous system.
Your neuropathy could have developed gradually or it could have been sudden onset, and symptoms vary significantly from individual to individual.
There are three ways to characterize neuropathy. It can be characterized by the kind of nerve that has been damaged, the location of the nerve damage within your body, and the disease process that causes it.
There are three main kinds of peripheral nerves – sensory nerves that control our senses, motor nerves that control voluntary movement, and autonomic nerves that control involuntary movement. Nerve damage that impacts on region of the body is mononeuropathy.
Damage that occurs in many areas is called polyneuropathy. If you have symmetric neuropathy you are suffering from a disorder that is occurring in the same places on both sides of the body.
The disease process can be diabetic neuropathy, which is caused by diabetes. If it has an unidentified cause, it is called idiopathic neuropathy.
It can be caused by many things, including inflammation, medications, liver failure, vitamin deficiencies, alcoholism, metabolic disorders, medications, vitamin deficiencies, and more.
Regardless of the cause, neuropathy can be a very debilitating disorder that can impact multiple aspects of an individual’s life. It can impact your ability to stand, walk, carry items, or lift.
Neuropathy can impact your day to day functioning as well as your ability to work and perform your normal job duties. Your symptoms depend on the nerves affected and where it is located in the body. You could have more than one kind of nerve damaged.
The Cost of Treating Neuropathy
According to Cost Helper, neuropathy can be expensive to treat. If the symptoms are mild, a doctor could recommend something such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen over-the-counter which runs from $5 to $25.
If an individual has more serious problems, a patient will need pain management methods, including prescription drugs. Health insurance will usually cover this and you will be responsible for co-pays and coinsurance costs ranging from 10% to 50%.
Prescriptions can range from $20 to $400 per month, depending upon the drug and if it is generic or brand name. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a non-invasive medical approach in which a device uses electrodes to release electrical current.
This pain relieving approach usually costs around $700.
The SSA Evaluation and Medical Qualifications
The SSA has strict guidelines that are used to determine if an individual is disabled. They use a medical guide that is referred to as the Blue Book. Your neuropathy and underlying conditions will be considered together to determine whether or not you are disabled.
The Blue Book has two impairment listings to specifically deal with Peripheral Neuropathy, which are Section 9.08 and Section 11.14.
Section 9.08 focuses on neuropathy that is in conjunction with diabetes mellitus. In order to meet the section’s requirements, you must have been diagnosed with diabetes have neuropathy characterized by tremor, ataxia, paralysis, or involuntary movement in two of your arms or legs, causing you the inability to perform gross motor and fine movements, causing standing and walking limitations.
Section 11.14, which covers the Neurological System, addresses the peripheral neuropathies directly.
In order to qualify under this listing, you must be diagnosed with neuropathy that is characterized by tremor, ataxia, paralysis, or involuntary movement in two of your arms or legs, causing you the inability to perform gross motor and fine movements, interfering with your walking and standing abilities.
Even if you do not meet the Blue Book requirements fully, you could still be eligible for SSDI through a medical vocational allowance if the SSA determines you are unable to return to you past work or transition to a new kind of work because of your functional limitations, work skills, age, and education.
Meeting Disability Criteria with an RFC
A residual functioning capacity (RFC) form is detailed and can help you get disability approval using a medical vocational allowance.
You have your doctor complete the RFC in detail, listing your limitations, including how long you can stand or sit in a position without having to reposition, such as every 2 hours or so. It should also indicate any symptoms that you have, such as the inability to grasp or handle certain projects.
If you are on medication that impairs your functioning, like it causes fatigue, confusion, or dizziness, that should also be indicated.
Explain how the pain and symptoms impact your ability to handle your regular tasks and your work duties. Your doctor needs to make it clear about how your medical issues impact your functioning and your ability to work or transition to a new kind of employment.
In the event your neuropathy is the result of a diabetes, your physician should also list the symptoms and side effects that you experience from your diabetes.
Also note if it is difficult to control and the kind of medications you have tried to control your diabetes as these can have a role in whether or not you are considered disabled.
Applying Specific Medical Tests to Your Case for Disability Because of Neuropathy
Physical and neurological exams are used to diagnose neuropathy. There are many tests that can be used, including electroencephaolography (EEG), spinal tap, blood work, urine samples, CAT scans, MRI scans, electromyography, and conduction velocity studies.
These tests help determine that you do suffer from neuropathy and what kind of neuropathy you are experiencing.
Neuropathy can be a complex disorder and can cause a variety of symptoms. The severity of the symptoms can depend upon the kind of neuropathy and the severity of the disorder.
Applying for disability is a lengthy and complicated process, so it can be very time consuming. The more documentation you provide initially, the better it will be for your claim.
The SSA may order a medical evaluation at their expense to confirm your symptoms and level of disability. They choose a physician and schedule the appointment for you as part of the disability claims process. This appointment is not for medical treatment, but solely for an evaluation.
You have a lot to gain from a successful Social Security disability claim. A successful claim wouldn’t just mean consistent financial support for your ailment—it would also grant you the kind of stability that you may have been missing out on for years now.
If Your Claim is Denied
The first thing to know is that if your application for Social Security disability benefits is denied, don’t worry. There is no need to panic because more claims are denied then approved on the first attempt, and that is simply due to the huge number of applications that are submitted on a regular basis to the Social Security Administration.
Many of those claims are incomplete or missing relevant medical documentation to help the SSA make their determination, and so the appeals process is where applicants can make sure they have included as much information as possible to help improve the chances that their claims are approved.
You have 60 days to appeal the decision, and the first step is to file a request for reconsideration. Essentially, the request for reconsideration is where you file your application again in hopes that a different administrator reviews the case and has a favorable opinion.
If the appeal is denied, you can attend a disability hearing where an administrative judge will hear your case and determine whether your claim should be approved. The judge could consult with a medical expert or a vocational expert to help make a decision. You are able to have witnesses at the hearing, and though it is not required to have witnesses it can be very helpful to your case to have someone there who can support your claim, especially if there are special circumstances surrounding your situation.
The appeal process can be overwhelming, so you might choose to work with a Social Security disability attorney who can help guide you through the process and ensure that your application is complete. Though not guaranteed, working with a Social Security lawyer can greatly improve your chances of approval.
How To Increase Your Chances of Approval
If you have been diagnosed with neuropathy and you want to file a claim for Social Security disability benefits, there are things that you can do to improve your chances of approval. The most important aspect of your claim is the medical documentation you provide, as this is the basis upon which the Social Security Administration will evaluate your claim. The SSA will look at your application to determine whether you can return to the work you were doing before, you cannot adjust to new work and that your disability will last at least one year. When you look at your application, you should make sure that it provides evidence that supports your claim that you cannot work.
The rule of thumb about what medical information you should provide in your application is this: Include everything. The more information you provide, the greater your chances of approval.
Your application should include a report from your doctor detailing your diagnosis and relevant medical history, the results of lab tests and imaging scans, your treatment plan, a list of all medications you are taking and any side effects you have experienced and any other information that will highlight how your diagnosis prevents you from working.
You should think of your application in terms of providing an explanation as to why you cannot work, with the documentation you provide serving as the proof. If you cannot stand for long periods of time but you’re capable of working while sitting down, then you would not be considered disabled under the SSA guidelines.
The SSA utilizes the residual function capacity (RFC) to determine your ability to work. The RFC outlines the maximum amount of work that you are able to perform considering your condition, and from there the SSA will look to see whether or not you would be capable of performing other tasks, based on your education and work experience.
If you are deemed unable to perform other tasks because of your condition, then you would likely qualify for disability benefits. When you look at your application, think of whether or not you have provided enough information to support a RFC that would prevent you from working. Another important consideration is whether or not you have enough work credits to file a claim for disability benefits. Work credits are earned on a yearly basis in years where you paid taxes and earned $5440. (That amount changes on a yearly basis; $5440 is the 2019 amount) You must have 40 credits, with 20 of those credits earned in the past 10 years, to qualify for disability. The number of work credits is based on age, so younger applicants will require fewer work credits because they have not worked long enough to earn 40 credits.
Consult with a Social Security Attorney
Unfortunately, winning a claim isn’t a cakewalk, which is why you should consider consulting a Social Security disability attorney or advocate.
Your attorney will use his or her knowledge and experience to fight on your behalf and help you get the benefits you need—and you don’t even need to pay your lawyer unless you win.
A successful Social Security claim could be life-changing, so don’t wait to get an evaluation and talk to a Social Security disability attorney as soon as possible.