There are a number of medical conditions that can cause paralysis, including strokes, reactions to medications, various degenerative diseases and spinal cord damage. Injuries resulting from accidents and nerve damage from diseases are often to blame for paralysis. The most obvious symptoms that come with paralysis are the loss of sensation and muscle control in the affected area of the body. Dependent upon the nerves damaged by the precipitating medical condition or event, paralysis may be localized, affecting the face, one side of the body, a single extremity, or can be widespread.
Applying for SSD with Paralysis
Here are just a few examples of the Social Security Administration’s listed conditions that may apply in paralysis cases:
- Section 1.04 – Disorders of the spine
- Section 11.08 – Spinal cord or nerve root lesions, due to any cause
- Section 11.09 – Multiple sclerosis
- Section 13.13 – Malignant neoplastic diseases of the nervous system
- Section 14.02 – Systemic lupus erythematosus
If your paralysis is due to a spinal cord injury or damage, then the Disorders of the spine (1.04) listing is the applicable one in your case. Your application must either meet this listing or be found eligible for disability benefits based on a medical vocation allowance, which essentially states that your condition doesn’t meet the requirements of a listed impairment, but still prevents you from working.
To be found eligible for benefits under section 1.04 listing, you’ll need to ensure your application and medical records show:
- You suffered a spinal injury or damage that has affected the nerves of the spinal cord, and
- That the injury or damage has caused nerve root compression leading to pain and/or loss of motion, muscle control or strength, reflexes, or sensation.
No matter which paralysis-causing impairment is the basis for your SSD application, you’ll need to ensure your application and substantiating documentation include:
- Your full medical history
- Notes from physical examinations detailing your condition
- Diagnostic test results that pinpoint the reason for your paralysis
- Treatment records, including physical therapy, surgical procedures and medications
- Statements from your physician explaining your condition, symptoms, outlook and your limitations
If you don’t meet the criteria for any of the SSA’s listed medical conditions, then you’ll need to qualify for disability benefits under a medical vocational allowance. In addition to the records listed above, you’ll want to ensure your application and medical documentation also show how your functional capacity is diminished by your paralysis. The SSA needs to see that you’re unable to perform the essential job duties required for maintaining gainful employment in your previous career or any other for which you’re qualified.
Is Paralysis A Disability?
Paralysis can be caused by many medical conditions or it could be because of an injury sustained in an accident. Paralysis is the loss of muscle control and feeling within the area of the body that is affected. Complete loss of function in any body part – such as an arm or a leg – is considered paralysis. Sometimes paralysis affects bladder and bowel functioning. Paralysis could be localized to one side of the body or to the face, or it can be widespread, such as from the waist down or from the neck down.
When you suffer from paralysis and apply for disability benefits, you will find that the SSA doesn’t specifically care about what caused the paralysis or the spinal cord problem, but instead, will focus on the severity of your functional loss as the disability listing in the Blue Book requires for an individual to qualify for disability benefits. To qualify for disability, the condition must be expected to last a minimum of a year.
Some people who are paralyzed have severe limitations, but others do have some abilities. When the term paralysis is used people often envision someone in a wheelchair, or someone who is unable to move his or her hands and must be fed by someone or must have a feeding tube. However, those images are not always accurate.
The Blue Book has a listing of impairments that sets out the criteria that must be met for an individual to qualify for disability benefits. Listing 11.08 covers spinal cord disorders, which is applicable to paralysis. There are three different ways that a claimant can qualify per the listing, with the symptoms ranging from less severe to the more severe:
A significant physical spinal cord problem that isn’t considered severe, but combined with a serious limitation in any of these mental areas –
- The ability to remember, understand or use information
- Social interactions
- Persistence, concentration, or the ability to work quickly and complete tasks OR
- The ability to take care of oneself including self-care activities or adapting to new changes
Abnormal ability of movement in at least two extremities that causes extreme difficulty in one’s ability to balance while walking or standing, standing from a seated position, or using the hands and/or arms that is related to a spinal cord problem.
Complete loss of functioning in any body part because of the injury to the spinal cord, such as paralysis of a leg or an arm. Paraplegic or quadriplegic claimants automatically qualify through the listing.
Can I Continue To Work With Paralysis?
The severity of your paralysis, how your paralysis affects you, and your job duties all come into play when determining if you can continue to work with paralysis. If you are able to use your arms and hands, but you cannot stand or walk, you may be able to perform some kind of sedentary work or work in a role at a desk.
But if you have lost movement of one arm and one leg and have trouble balancing, you most likely cannot work and earn a living. If you are paraplegic or quadriplegic, you will require assistance and you will not be able to continue working and earn a living. If you are paralyzed and unable to work, you should start the process of applying for disability benefits.
You will need to provide hard medical evidence and supporting documentation for your claim, so you can prove the severity of your paralysis and how it affects your daily functioning as well as your ability to work. If you are unable to work because of paralysis, you should speak with an attorney who handles Social Security Disability claims.
Documentation – specifically medical evidence – is a necessity for a disability claim. The disability examiner must be able to determine that your limitations affect your ability to perform your basic daily tasks as well as your ability to work and earn a living. You will need to prepare a detailed list of your medical providers, their contact details, and the dates of medical service so those records can be obtained for review. How A Disability Attorney Can Help If you are unable to work because you suffer from paralysis, a disability attorney can help you get your claim on track. Most disability claims are denied and require appeals and a continuing process until they reach the administrative law hearing level. When you go before an administrative law judge, your chances of having your claim approved and being awarded benefits are at their highest.
The wording of the disability documents is very technical and can be challenging for individuals who are not doctors or attorneys to understand. The claims process can be drawn out, taking several months or even longer than a year for a claim to be approved. An attorney will know the most efficient and effective way to proceed with a claim and to ensure that the disability examiner has access to the documents and information needed to make an informed decision and to determine if you are able to work or not.
When you retain the services of a disability lawyer, you will not have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket. Instead, the attorney will take the case on a contingency basis, which means that he or she will not be paid until you win your claim and are awarded disability benefits. At that time, your lawyer will receive 25 percent of your backpay not to exceed $6,000.
A disability lawyer will understand the claims process and can determine which documentation and evidence is essential to getting your disability claim approved. A lawyer will be able to review your supporting documents and determine the best way to proceed with your claim. To ensure your disability claim for paralysis proceeds in the best way possible, complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share the details with an attorney who handles Social Security Disability claims.
Getting Help with Your Paralysis SSD Application
To file a successful SSD claim for paralysis, you must work with your doctor to ensure your medical records meet the requirements of the SSA. You should also consider seeking help with your application from a Social Security advocate or attorney, as they can help you document your disability and prove that you either match a listed impairment or meet the requirements for a medical vocational allowance.