Parkinson's Disease and Social Security Disability

Parkinson’s Disease – Condition and Symptoms

Parkinson’s Disease (alternatively known as idiopathic parkinsonism, primary parkinsonism, and PD) is a progressive degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system (CNS).

It is the result of the death of cells which contain dopamine (a neurotransmitter) in the midbrain. While some cases seem to have a genetic connection, the vast majority have no known cause.

The most common early symptom of Parkinson’s Disease is a tremor, usually beginning in one of the hands, and usually happening when the hand is at rest.

One of the distinctive characteristics of this tremor is called “pill rolling”, a circular motion where the tip of the thumb meets the end of the index finger.

Another typical feature of Parkinson’s is that the symptoms usually begin on one side of the body, with that side’s symptoms consistently having a greater severity than those of the other side. Other motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease include:

  • Bradykinesia, or slowness of movement - this usually begins to affect fine motor skills such as writing, buttoning clothing, etc. and worsens to include gross motor skills like walking as the disease progresses.
  • Rigidity of the limbs - due to excessive contraction of the muscles.
  • Postural instability - balance can become difficult during later stages of the disease, leading to falls and bone fractures.

Other physical symptoms can include a forward-flexed walking posture, blank facial expression, speech problems, a shuffling gate, and the loss of some automatic movements such as blinking or swinging of the arms while walking.

As the disease continues to progress, cognitive problems manifest themselves in the form of memory, mood, and behavioral problems. Dementia may set in, and depression and anxiety commonly manifest in later stages of the disease.

Parkinson’s Disease can be treated with some medications, with varying degrees of success, and physical therapy can assist in maintaining muscle strength and flexibility.

In some cases, an electrode planted deep within the brain can also provide significant relief from symptoms, especially tremors. This approach has proven to be effective for patients whose response to medication has been erratic or limited.

Is Parkinson’s a Disability?

 Parkinson’s Disease is considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA) According to the SSA’s Blue Book, which is the list of conditions that can qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Parkinson’s Disease is located in section 11.06 of the SSA’s Blue Book. If you have Parkinson’s and you are not able to work for at least 12 months or longer because of your disease, you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits and be considered disabled by the SSA.

In order to qualify for disability with Parkinson’s, the SSA will examine all of your medical records and documentation to see if closely matches the listing for Parkinson’s in the SSA’s Blue Book. 

In order for Parkinson’s to be considered a disability, the following needs to be met despite taking prescribed treatment for three consecutive months:

Disorganization of motor function in two extremities, that results in an extreme limitation in being able to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.

 Or a Marked limitation and physical function in one of the following:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  • Adapting or managing oneself

If you are able to match these listings, then you will be deemed disabled by the SSA and you will qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

 Infographic to determine if you qualify for SSD benefits with Parkinson's

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis

The SSA has a complied list guidelines of conditions that qualify for disability benefits. Under it's listing in the "Blue Book," Parkinson’s Disease is a condition that can qualify a person for Social Security Disability benefits provided that certain diagnostic criteria are met and documented which include:

  • rigidity
  • bradykinesia, or tremor in two extremities causing ongoing problems with movement
  • gait, or ability to stand

There is no single test that can provide a definitive diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Diagnosis is based upon an evaluation of the symptoms present, as well as a neurological examination.

Also, the presence of at least two of what are considered to be the “cardinal symptoms” of Parkinson’s (which are tremor, bradykinesia, and muscle rigidity) can be considered to be strongly indicative of the presence of the condition.

Additionally, tremors of the hands that occur while the hand is at rest, symptoms that begin on one side of the body, and/or a positive response to levodopa (a standard Parkinson’s medication) are also telltale diagnostic tools.

It can be assumed that these symptoms could be used as the basis for a Social Security Disability case on their own should they become serious enough to inhibit one’s ability to work. If the disease has progressed to this point, however, the patient has likely already qualified based on physical/motor symptoms.

What Benefits Can You Claim If You Have Parkinson’s?

 There are a couple of benefits you can claim if you have Parkinson’s, which are SSDI benefits and Medicare. The first being Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI.

SSDI benefits are one of the two programs that the Social Security Administration offers and it is for those who at one point were able to work, but can no longer work for at least 12 months because of a disability or a severe ailment like Parkinson’s Disease.

In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, you need to be deemed disabled by the SSA and you need to have a sufficient amount of work credits.

Work credits are calculated by your age and how long you have worked. If you are SSDI benefits, under certain conditions, your family members like children under the age of 18 or your spouse.

 The other benefit that you can claim if you have Parkinson’s is Medicare. Medicare is a federal program for those with disabilities and for people 65 and over.

If you qualify for SSDI benefits with Parkinson’s, you will also qualify for Medicare as well. You automatically get Medicare Part A and Part B after you get one of these:

  • Disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months
  • Certain disability benefits from the RRB for 24 months

 How Long Does it Take to Get Disability for Parkinson’s?

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer on how long it will take you get to get disability benefits for Parkinson’s.

After your initial application is complete, it will take the SSA around 3-5 months to get back to you with a decision regarding your claim.

The exact time varies depending on the time it takes for you to get all of your medical records and information over to the SSA to make a decision.

If the SSA denies your application, you are able to appeal the decision, but that will prolong the time it takes for you get disability for Parkinson’s.

The more medical evidence and documentation you have to support your claim with Parkinson’s, the shorter time it could take for you to get the benefits you deserve.

Seek the Counsel of a Social Security Attorney When Applying For Disability With Parkinson's Disease

If you or a member of your family has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, the symptoms which prompted the diagnosis may also serve as the qualifications for Social Security Disability benefits.

With the amount of documentation necessary to prove the presence of these qualifying criteria, it would likely be in your best interests to have your case evaluated by a Social Security Disability attorney who may be able to help with your claim.

While the degree of impairment caused by these symptoms may seem obvious to you, having them sufficiently documented so their impact is adequately illustrated on paper is imperative to receiving a positive decision from the Social Security Administration.

Working in close collaboration with your healthcare providers, an experienced Social Security Disability attorney can be sure the proper documents are provided when your application is submitted so your benefits can begin as soon as possible.

Free Case Evaluation For People With Parkinson's Disease

All too often, claimants are denied Social Security benefits based on missing, inaccurate, or incomplete paperwork. As a result, the applicant must then begin on the arduous disability appeal process. Unfortunately, the this process is long and slow, resulting in excruciating delays.

A Social Security Disability lawyer can make sure you have the documents you need the first time, saving you the hassle and the delay of a lengthy disability appeal process.

To speak with a qualified Social Security Attorney about your chances of getting Social Security benefits, request a free disability evaluation today.

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