Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder with symptoms that worsen over time. An estimated one million Americans are living with PD and about 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, reports the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. The progression of the disease is different for everyone, but affected persons might experience tremors, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), rigidity of limbs, and impaired balance and coordination, all of which can affect your ability to work.

If you have PD and your symptoms are affecting your ability to work, you might be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. To learn more about getting Social Security disability for Parkinson’s disease in Raleigh, call a disability lawyer at Lunn and Forro, PLLC to request a free consultation: 888-966-6566.

Does my Parkinson’s disease qualify me as disabled?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a very strict definition of disabled. It will only award disability benefits for total disability, not partial. Early-stage PD and PD that you can control with treatment will likely not be severe enough to qualify you as disabled. Your condition must be debilitating and impair your ability to work.

The SSA will consider your PD as disabling when it meet the criteria detailed in Section 11.06: Parkinsonian Syndrome of its Listing of Impairments.

The SSA will determine you disabled when you can prove that, despite sticking to your prescribed treatment for at least three months, you experience either of the following two criteria:

  1. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities that has resulted in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use your upper extremities.
  1. Marked limitation in physical functioning (e.g., prolonged difficulty breathing or prolonged, uncorrectable double-vision), and in at least one of the following: understanding, remembering, or applying information; interacting with others; concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or adapting or managing yourself.

Is meeting the above criteria the only way the SSA will consider me disabled by PD?

If your PD is not listing-level, you may still be able to collect benefits based on a “medical vocational allowance.” When your condition does not meet the listing criteria, the SSA will review your medical records and work history and discern what types of functional limitations you have. The claims examiner will use this information to complete an RFC, or residual functional capacity assessment.

The examiner will assess both physical limitations such as lifting more than 20 pounds and vision impairments, as well as mental limitations such as an inability to concentrate or communicate with co-workers.

If the examiner determines you are not capable of returning to your old job and that you are not capable of adjusting to new work, the SSA may grant you benefits based on a medical vocational allowance.

What are the other requirements for disability benefits?

If you have either met the listing requirements or have received a determination via an RFC assessment, there are still a couple of additional criteria you must meet to collect benefits.

First, your PD must have lasted (or a doctor must expect it to last) a year or longer or result in death. Given that there is currently no cure for PD and it does not typically spontaneously go into remission, this criterion is relatively easy to establish.

You must also meet certain financial or work history requirements, depending on which program you are applying for:

  • SSI: If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a disability benefit for those with limited income and limited resources, your income and assets must fall below a certain threshold.
  • SSDI: If you worked at a job and paid Social Security taxes for a long enough period of time, you will likely file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, a benefit for disabled workers. You must have earned a certain number of work credits within recent years, the exact number of which depends on your age.

Both processes can be very complex. We have many years of experience with both processes and can help at any stage in the process. We know what evidence the SSA is looking for and we make sure our clients have it.

How do I prove my disability to the SSA?

When you submit an application for disability benefits, the SSA will want to see all of your medical records pertaining to your PD. This includes your general doctor, neurologist, and your movement disorders specialist, if you have one. Your files should contain:

  • Diagnostic tests
  • Any treatments you tried and how they affected you
  • Current medications
  • Your doctor’s input about your limitations
  • Your prognosis

You can also help substantiate your claim using non-medical evidence, such as input from your therapist, your own personal account of how your disease is affecting your life, and notes from your employer, family, and social workers about how your PD is affecting your ability to work.

It is important to note that gaining approval for disability benefits — even for legitimate disabling impairments like PD — is not easy. The SSA denies most of the applications it receives each year. An incomplete or insufficient medical record is one of the main reasons for a claim denial.

If the SSA denies or delays your claim, call us to review your files to ensure they are thorough and complete, assist with forms and collecting evidence, and help you explore your options.

The SSA denied my claim. What can I do now?

There are several levels of appeals you can use if the SSA has denied your claim. The first level, reconsideration, involves asking the SSA to reconsider its first decision as well as providing additional evidence to support your case.

A person unconnected with the first decision will review your files and either uphold the first decision or accept your claim. If that person upholds the first decision, we can move to the next appeals phase.

You have only 60 days from the date you received your denial in the mail to appeal your case. If you have PD that is progressing the point where you cannot work, disability benefits can help you and your family stay financially afloat. The process is difficult, but do not give up.

Call our office in Raleigh at 888-966-6566 to discuss your case today.