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How Disabling is Quadriplegia?

An estimated 5.4 million Americans are currently living with some form of paralysis. Approximately 47% people are considered quadriplegic, or paralyzed from the shoulders down. Many different conditions and injuries can lead to quadriplegia.

Due to the severity of quadriplegia, many individuals are permanently disabled. If you have been impacted by quadriplegia and are unable to work to your full capacity, there could be financial help available to you.

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was created to assist those who have become disabled due to a health issue such as quadriplegia.

What Exactly is Quadriplegia?

Quadriplegia, also called tetraplegia, is the loss of muscle function to the arms, legs, and torso. More often than not, it is accompanied by loss of sensation to these areas as well. The paralysis can be temporary or permanent. It can also be partial or complete.

With partial paralysis, you may be able to have some control over the muscles.

The primary cause of quadriplegia is a spinal cord injury, although other conditions such as a stroke or cerebral palsy can also cause quadriplegia.

The severity of quadriplegia depends on the location of the injury. In addition to being unable to use their limbs, people with quadriplegia may also suffer from difficulty breathing, bowel and bladder problems, blood clots, and pressure sores.

While there is no cure for permanent quadriplegia, some people may regain limited function over time.

How Disabling is quadriplegia

What Symptoms Do I Need to Qualify?

Individuals with quadriplegia may face a broad range of symptoms which may affect one’s ability to work differently. The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists the criteria for disability benefits in the Social Security Blue Book. Section 1.04 addresses disorders of the spine.

Additionally, if your quadriplegia has a neurological cause, you might be evaluated under Section 11.08, spinal cord disorders. Here are some signs that you might qualify for financial assistance from the SSA for your paralysis:

  • Complete loss of function of any part of your body may make it difficult to work. The SSA requires that your loss of function last for at least three months before considering your application because paralysis may sometimes be temporary.
  • If you have had a complete loss of function of any part of your body, you will qualify for social security benefits.
  • Some people with quadriplegia have challenges moving from a seated position to standing, but most are unable to stand at all. Some may experience difficulty with balance when walking or standing. Again, walking and standing are not possible for most individuals. If your job demands that you stand or walk, you will be eligible for benefits from the SSA.
  • Neurological disorders, which cause paralysis, may lead to mental impairments as well. Some individuals may experience difficulty interacting with others, understanding information, or concentrating. As most jobs require communication and focus, work may prove difficult for you.
  • Paralysis can cause anxiety and depression, which may impact your ability to work. If you experience emotional difficulty as a result of your illness, this may be considered in your application.
  • Quadriplegia often affects other body systems. If you suffer from respiratory, cardiac, gastrointestinal, or urinary problems, you will also be evaluated under those body systems.
  • If you do not meet the qualifying criteria in the Blue Book, you still may be assessed by the SSA for your “Residual Functioning Capacity” or RFC. The SSA will determine your abilities and make recommendations for you. For example, if you are unable to walk, but you can perform sedentary work, the SSA will determine your eligibility for benefits.

Do I Qualify for Social Security Benefits?

To be eligible for Social Security benefits, your medical records will need to show that the symptoms of your paralysis have been present for at least three months and that they are severe enough to prevent you from working at a level which would support you.

Additionally, your paralysis needs to be expected to last for at least 12 months. For the majority of people with quadriplegia, this will be the case.

What Information Will I Need to Provide?

When applying for Social Security for your quadriplegia, you may be asked to provide the following proof of your condition:

  • Confirmation of your diagnosis from your doctor, including notes addressing your function and mobility.
  • X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or other imaging results.
  • Electromyography (EMG) or Somatosensory Evoked Potential (SSEP) results, if performed.
  • Blood and urine tests, especially if you are experiencing other health problems secondary to your paralysis.
  • Hospitalization records
  • Progress notes from your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care specialists involved in your care, describing your symptoms and prognosis.

If you are missing any of the above information, contact your doctor or hospital immediately. The more medical evidence that you have on your side, the better your chances of receiving SSDI benefits for your quadriplegia.

What’s Next?

If you have quadriplegia and believe that you may qualify for Social Security benefits, you should contact a disability advocate or lawyer in your area. Losing function or feeling in any part of your body is life-changing.

When your health is suffering, it can be difficult to know where to turn or what to do next. A qualified attorney can help you navigate the Social Security application process, leaving you time to focus on what’s most important: your health.