Receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be an extremely challenging moment in your life. If you have received your diagnosis early on, you may still be able to work.
However, as the disease progresses, your ability to safely and effectively perform your job will likely deteriorate. The Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI) was developed to assist people, such as yourself, who have become disabled due to a diagnosis such as Parkinson’s.
Oftentimes, applicants for SSDI are denied benefits based on their inability to provide accurate and complete paperwork. Even those who rightfully deserve disability assistance for Parkinson’s disease have been refused at times.
It is your responsibility to provide the medical evidence regarding your Parkinson’s disease to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The Importance of the “Blue Book”
If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you might qualify for disability benefits if you meet the specific criteria provided the SSA’s medical guide, known as the Blue Book.
Parkinson’s disease, also referred to as Parkinsonian syndrome is a neurological disorder that is listed in section 11.06 of the Blue Book.
To meet the listing in section 11.06, the applicant must provide substantial evidence that their Parkinson’s disease causes significant challenges in terms of tremors, gait, and movement.
Evidence Needed Related to Your Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis
The first type of medical evidence that the Blue Book directly requests is a complete medical history of your Parkinson’s disease. As there is no specific test for Parkinson’s disease, medical records from your neurologist are of vital importance.
They should include your presenting symptoms, the history and progression of your disease, as well as the results of a full physical examination.
According to the Blue Book, certain physical limitation criteria would make you eligible for disability benefits. Be certain that your neurologist documents any physical limitations including, but not limited to, the following:
- Any difficulty that you might experience with movement of two of the following: shoulders, fingers, wrists, legs, arms, or hands.
- Challenges standing up from a sitting position
- Any troubles that you might have balancing, walking, standing upright. This includes difficulties caused by double vision.
- Any challenges performing any work-related activities due to limitations in your your arms, hands, shoulders or wrists
- Breathing problems or needing to use assistive devices, like a CPAP machine, to breathe.
- Other limits to your functioning that your neurologist records
A change in certain aspects of your mental function a result of Parkinson’s disease would make you eligible for benefits. Have your neurologist document any mental limitations you may have, like the following:
- Any challenges you might experience with maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace at work.
- Difficulty interacting with other people
- Problems with emotional control
- Any problems that you have understanding, remembering, or applying information.
Evidence Needed Related to Your Parkinson’s Disease Treatments
Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured, but it can often be effectively managed. The treatment for Parkinson’s varies from person to person.
The SSA will need to know exactly what treatments you have received, your response to those treatments, and most importantly if your condition has worsened despite those treatments.
The Blue Book indicates that you need to have the above symptoms and that the symptoms must be unresponsive to medication for at least three consecutive months of treatment.
Be certain that your doctor has documented the following:
- Any and all medications that you are receiving as a result of your Parkinson’s disease, as well as your response to the medications
- Any surgical procedures that have been performed, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), including operative notes from the surgeon
- Any physical therapy or other related therapies that you are getting to treat your Parkinson’s disease
- The impact that Parkinson’s disease has on both your physical and mental health
- The progression of your illness, and it’s projected path.
Evidence Needed Related Your Quality of Life and Ability to Care for Yourself
Even if your symptoms do not meet the Blue Book listing in section 11.06, you might still be too disabled to work. Your neurologist should consider performing a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment.
This very specific form will help your neurologist to document all of your limitations.
For example, many people with Parkinson’s experience such significant tremors that they are unable to use their hands for routine tasks such as tying their shoe, holding a pencil, or combing their hair.
If you are suffering from symptoms related to your Parkinson’s, and if you are unable to work due to limitations from your disease, you may still qualify for disability through a residual functional capacity assessment.
Steps You Can Take to Win Your Disability Claim
If your ability to work has been limited, you should consider applying for SSDI benefits for Parkinson's disease. Even if you have applied and were denied, the progressive nature of Parkinson’s disease makes it such that you might be approved this time around.
The medical evidence listed in section 11.06 is arguably the most important factor in your Social Security disability claim. You might consider discussing the criteria listed in this section with your neurologist. The entire Blue Book is available online.
While you don’t need to provide medical documentation to the SSA yourself, it is helpful to be as organized as possible.
When you visit your doctor, it is a good idea to present a written list of symptoms and side-effects that you are experiencing.
There are several ways that your neurologist or primary care physician can help including:
- Ensuring that your full medical history related to your Parkinson’s disease is up to date
- Listing your past treatments and responses, as well as the plan for the future
- Documenting all of your medications and experienced side effects
- Focusing on both the physiological and the psychological aspects of your Parkinson’s disease
Many people with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty getting through the daily aspects of life. Applying for Social Security benefits may seem overwhelming and incredibly expensive.
It’s important to know that an experienced disability attorney or advocate can assist you with this cumbersome process.