Over 600,000 people in the United States are currently living with Ménière’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes dizziness, ringing in the ears, and hearing loss. While anyone can get Ménière’s disease, it most commonly affects adults between the age of 40 and 60 years old.
Health experts estimate that six out of every ten people will recover or learn how to control their Ménière’s disease. However, some individuals will have long-term disabling symptoms that will prohibit them from working.
If you have been diagnosed with Ménière’s disease and are unable to work, you might be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. While anyone can apply for disability benefits, individuals over the age of 50 have an advantage when it comes to qualifying for financial assistance from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Winning a disability claim generally becomes easier for people as they get older. The SSA recognizes the employment barriers present for aging individuals. For example, some employers are reluctant to hire older workers, especially if they have a condition that might require them to be away from their job. If you are over the age of 50, the SSA might use the “grid rules” to determine your disability eligibility.
Meeting a Blue Book Listing for Ménière’s Disease
The Social Security Administration maintains a listing of impairments known as the Blue Book to help determine if a person is disabled. If your medical condition is in the Blue Book and you meet the criteria listed under that condition, it is highly likely that you will qualify for disability benefits.
Ménière’s disease is listed in section 2.07 of the Blue Book titled Disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function. According to the Blue Book, an individual with Ménière’s must have a history of frequent attacks of balance disturbance, such as vertigo. Additionally, they must experience ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus, as well as documented hearing loss. These findings must be verified by caloric or other vestibular tests.
Often, those with Ménière’s disease experience anxiety, or other related mood disorders, as a direct result of their illness. Anticipating an exacerbation of the disease can be incredibly anxiety-provoking. If you have experienced an associated diagnosis, such as anxiety disorder, you may meet a listing in section 12.00, Mental Disorders.
As with all disability conditions, your Ménière’s disease must be expected to last for at least 12 months. As the symptoms of Ménière’s often come and go, it can be difficult to prove that your illness meets these requirements. Adequate medical documentation is essential to have if you want to win your disability case.
Grid Rules and Ménière’s Disease
Not everyone will meet a Blue Book listing for Ménière’s disease. If you are over the age of 50, the SSA may turn to the “grid rules” to determine your eligibility for disability benefits. The grid rules, also referred to as the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, assess each applicant for their age, education level, previous work experience, and skills acquired over the last fifteen years. The grid rules require that each individual be assigned a Residual Functional Capacity, or RFC. The RFC determines the exertional work level for a person, given their current health status. Grid rules apply to those individuals who are given a sedentary, light, or medium RFC.
The grid rules favor those individuals who are older, less-educated, and possess less transferable skills. For example, a 39-year-old high-school graduate who works as a secretary is less likely to be awarded benefits than a 51-year-old high-school graduate who performs manual labor in a factory.
What Type of Work Can Someone with Ménière’s Disease Do?
Individuals with Ménière’s disease sometimes have a difficult time holding down a job due to the unpredictable nature of the disease. Oftentimes, people with Ménière’s have no idea when an attack is going to occur, nor how severe or long it is going to last. As a result, people with Ménière’s can go into remission for periods of time and appear to function normally.
Individuals with Ménière’s disease would benefit from flexible jobs that allow for varied work schedules. Further, jobs that are not particularly loud and that have good acoustics would likely be a good fit for those with Ménière’s disease. For example, working as a data entry clerk where work could also be done from home might benefit someone with Ménière’s disease.
Should I Discuss My Case with a Disability Lawyer or Advocate?
The symptoms of Ménière’s disease sometimes wax and wane. As such, it might be difficult to prove that you are truly disabled, especially when you may be experiencing periods of remission. An experienced Disability Attorney can ensure that you have all of the appropriate medical documentation needed to win your case.
Further, as the grid rules are complex, a Social Security Lawyer can help you navigate the application process, thus leaving you more time to focus on your health and recovery.