Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by unpredictable epileptic seizures. Many people with epilepsy can still lead productive lives; however, some cannot function well enough to work. For this reason, they may qualify for Social Security Disability for epilepsy.
If you or someone you know has epilepsy, the following information could help you understand more about the condition and how you can be eligible for disability benefits.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that affects the brain’s nerve cells and causes disturbances in the normal electrical activity of the brain. These disturbances cause a person with epilepsy to have repeated seizures. They can have from a single seizure to hundreds of seizures during their lifetime.
There are three different types of epilepsy: generalized, partial, or unclassified. Generalized refers to seizures that involve the entire brain; partial refers to seizures that affect only one part of the brain; unclassified refers to either type where it isn’t possible to determine which type it is. The most common and disabling types of seizures are generalized tonic-clonic seizures and dyscognitive seizures (formerly complex partial seizures).
During generalized tonic-clonic seizures, the body stiffens, often jerking, and then relaxes. Sometimes, the person falls to the ground and loses consciousness, but not always. Dyscognitive seizures usually have an abrupt onset, last from a few seconds to several minutes, and have a full recovery. The person may stare blankly into space, have repetitive speech or movements.
Treatment for epilepsy is individualized and depends on several factors, which include:
- type of seizures
- severity of seizures
- frequency of seizures
- injuries related to a seizure
- side-effects of any medications
A variety of medications are used to treat epilepsy. Medications are used to reduce the number of seizures or to help nerve cells function more normally. The medications used may be available as pills, liquids, or injections. If you have epilepsy, your doctor will probably start you on the medication with the lowest risk of side effects and will add another medication if needed.
Some people with epilepsy may benefit from surgery to remove part of the brain that’s causing seizures. Surgery is only used for certain types of seizures. The goals for surgery are to improve the person’s quality of life and reduce the risk of injury.
Epilepsy and Social Security Disability
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5-step process to determine eligibility for disability benefits. If you are applying for disability benefits for epilepsy, you will go through the following process:
- Determine if you are working at or above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as defined by the SSA in the year they file. The SGA level for 2022 is a monthly income of $1350.
- Determine if your complications from epilepsy significantly limit your ability to perform basic work activities, such as
- pulling or pushing
- lifting or carrying
- simple cognitive reasoning
- Determine if your issues with epilepsy meet the criteria outlined in the SSA’s impairments list.
To meet the SSA’s epilepsy impairments listing, you will need to have medical proof of diagnosis with epilepsy. Your medical documentation must show that you have the following seizures and complications from said seizures.
- Generalized tonic-clonic seizures that occur at least once a month for at least three months despite following prescribed treatment.
- Dyscognitive seizures that occur at least once a week for at least three months, despite following prescribed treatment.
- Generalized tonic-clonic seizures that occur at least once every 2 months for at least 4 months despite following prescribed treatment and a significant limitation in one of the following:
- Physical functioning; or
- comprehending, remembering, or applying information; or
- interacting with others; or concentrating, persevering, or
- maintaining a steady pace; or
- adapting or managing oneself
- Dyscognitive seizures that occur at least once every two weeks for at least three months, despite following prescribed treatment and a significant limitation in one of the functions listed above.
- Determine if you can do any work they may have done in the past despite your complications from epilepsy.
- Determine if you can do any other work based on your:
- prior work experience
- mental and physical capabilities
Getting Help with Your Disability Claim for Epilepsy
Do you have epilepsy which often interferes with your ability to work? If so, you could be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits.
Getting approval for a disability claim because of epilepsy can be complicated. You need to provide sufficient medical evidence about how epilepsy affects you physically and evidence of how it affects your daily life. An experienced disability lawyer can guide you through the process. Research has shown that chances of getting approved for disability benefits increase with the help of an attorney.
Brock & Stout’s disability attorneys have over 25 years of experience helping clients get the disability benefits they need. Contact us for a free evaluation of your situation to let us see if we can get you the help you need.