Nearly 800,000 Americans have strokes each year, according to the American Stroke Association. About 75% of stroke victims suffer lasting effects making it the leading cause of long-term disability. Many stroke victims find it difficult to return to work and need financial help.

If you have had a stroke, and it interferes with your ability to work, you could be eligible to receive Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or a hemorrhage occurs in the brain. The blockage or hemorrhage decreases blood flow to that area of the brain and damages the surrounding cells and tissues. The effects of a stroke vary depending upon where the brain damage occurred and how much of the brain is damaged. The damage can cause difficulty with walking, talking, and seeing. Some stroke victims become permanently paralyzed on one side of their body or completely lose their ability to talk. A stroke can also cause personality changes and cognitive losses. Stroke victims can recover from their injuries. But, the majority do not fully recover and must live with the effects the rest of their lives.

SSDI and Stroke

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a 5 step process they use to determine a claimant’s eligibility for SSDI benefits. Because the effects of a stroke vary so and recovery could happen, a person must wait 3 months after their stroke before filing. Once the claim is filed, the stroke victim must go through the following process:

  1. Determine if the claimant is working at or above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as defined by the SSA in the year they file. The SGA level for 2017 is a monthly income of $1170.
  2. Determine if the claimant’s complications from a stroke significantly limit their ability to perform basic work activities such as:
  • sitting
  • standing
  • reaching
  • pulling or pushing
  • lifting or carrying
  • simple cognitive reasoning
  1. Determine if complications from claimant’s stroke meet the criteria outlined in the SSA’s impairments list. Strokes are evaluated under section 11.04 (Vascular Insult to the Brain) of the impairments list. The listing requires medical evidence proving at least one of the following sets of symptoms exists even after three months of treatment:

The inability to communicate effectively due to aphasia.


  1. The inability to control movement of at least two extremities (either an arm and a leg or two arms or two legs), despite at least three months of treatment. This must result in extreme difficulty in the ability to balance while standing or walking, to stand up from a seated position, or to use the arms.


  1. Noted physical limitation along with difficulty with one of the following functions:
  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating or maintaining pace
  • Adapting or managing oneself

Some stroke victims may also qualify under the impairment listing 2.0 Special Senses and Speech if they have vision or language problems because of the stroke.

  1. Determine if the claimant can do any work they may have done in the past despite difficulties involving their stroke.
  2. Determine if the claimant can do any other type of work based upon their:
  • age
  • education
  • prior work experience
  • mental and physical capabilities

Getting Help with Your Claim

Have you had a stroke that affects your ability to work? You may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

But, the approval process is complicated. The SSA requires medical records detailing complications from the stroke and evidence of how it affects your daily life. It is best you do not try to file your claim on your own. Research shows having a lawyer help you with your SSDI claim could significantly increase the chances of approval. Let one of Brock & Stout’s experienced Social Security attorneys help guide you through the process.