The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program offers a financial lifeline to those who can no longer work due to a serious health condition. To earn disability benefits, however, a person must be able to demonstrate that their illness is so severe that it has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least one year or result in death.
To help the Social Security Administration (SSA) consistently determine which conditions are severe enough to warrant disability payments, the “Disability Evaluation under Social Security” document was created.
Better known as the “Blue Book,” this online manual lists the various impairments that might qualify an individual for disability benefits.
How the Blue Book Can Help You Medically Qualify for Disability with Neuropathy
If you are one of the 20 million Americans who suffer from peripheral neuropathy, you might be wondering if you could qualify for SSDI benefits for your condition.
As many cases of neuropathy are minor or transient, most people are not appropriate candidates for disability benefits. However, there are a number of cases in which peripheral neuropathy is so severe that it renders an individual unable to work.
The Blue Book lists peripheral neuropathy in the neurological section of the manual, 11.14. To qualify for disability benefits for your peripheral neuropathy, you will need to exhibit one of the following:
- Disorganization of motor function of two extremities, such as the hands, arms, wrists, shoulders, or legs, that results in an inability to stand from a seated position, an inability to maintain balance while standing or walking without an assistive device or help from another person, or an inability to use both upper extremities that limits your ability to complete work-related activities.
- Marked limitation in physical functioning as described in section A, as well as marked limitations in owe of the following:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information. Examples might include understanding and learning instructions, following simple orders to carry out a task, or recognizing a mistake and correcting it.
- Interacting with others. Examples might include cooperating with others, asking for help when needed, handling conflicts with others, and responding to requests, suggestions, criticism, correction, and challenges.
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace. Examples might include working at an appropriate and consistent pace, completing tasks in a timely manner, ignoring or avoiding distractions while working, and changing activities or work settings without being disruptive.
- Adapting or managing oneself. Examples might include distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable work performance, setting realistic goals, and making plans for yourself independently of others.
Peripheral neuropathy is often the result of other underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. Therefore, if you do not qualify for SSDI under section 11.14, you might want to consider the underlying cause of your neuropathy to see if you could possibly meet another listing within the Blue Book.
What Evidence Do I Need to Win My Neuropathy Claim?
The Blue Book is not simply a resource for the listing of impairments. In addition, it also provides information on the medical evidence required by the SSA to substantiate your claim.
For all neurological disorders, including peripheral neuropathy, the SSA will want to receive a full medical history and physical examination from a neurologist.
Included in the reports should be descriptions of any prescribed treatment, such as medications, as well as your response to the treatment. The SSA will also want to see any relevant laboratory tests and imaging results, such as x-ray, CT scans, MRIs, or EEGs.
In addition, the SSA will consider non-medical evidence such as statements from yourself or others about your limitations, restrictions, impairments, daily activities, and efforts to work. If you are working with a therapist as it relates to your illness, you will want to include those records as well.
Finally, if your peripheral neuropathy has another primary cause, be certain to include medical documentation related to that as well.
For example, you might be unable to work due to pain from your peripheral neuropathy. However, if diabetes is the underlying cause of your neuropathy, be certain to include medical documentation from your endocrinologist as it relates to your diabetes.
Can A Lawyer Help Me Win My Claim for Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy has a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Some individuals may only experience a small amount of tingling or numbness in one finger, while others might be completely unable to walk.
Because of the wide range of possible symptoms, the SSA will carefully review your medical documentation to determine if your case is severe enough to warrant a disability award.
An experienced Social Security lawyer can help enhance your chances of success, as he or she will be able to help you determine if you have enough medical evidence to win your disability claim. Further, a disability lawyer or advocate can assist you in navigating the complicated application, and potentially appeals, process.