This post discusses Social Security Disability Benefits for Neuropathy. If neuropathy is preventing you from working, it will help to know how your claim for disability will be evaluated.
This article should not be taken as medical advice. If you are having symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, please seek medical treatment. You will need the medical evidence to prove your disability case, and more importantly, it is imperative for your health.
Types of Social Security Disability Benefits
Social Security offers two main types of disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is based on the credits from the work you have done in your life while SSI is a need based program. You must be found disabled under SSA’s Five Step Sequential Evaluation before you are entitled to either benefit. The first step is to file online or at your local SSA office (also read The Disability Process).
What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy refers to diseases or malfunctions of the nerves. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when damage to nerves interrupts communication between the brain and other parts of the body. This can impair muscle movement, prevent normal sensation in the arms and legs, and cause pain (Via WebMD ). Peripheral neuropathy can be divided into categories: mononeuropathy and polyneuropathy.
Mononeuropathy is damage to a single nerve or nerve group and is usually caused by injury. An example of a mononeuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS affects the median nerve and is usually caused by repetitive motion of the hand and wrist. Other forms of mononeuropathy are axillary nerve dysfunction; peroneal nerve dysfunction; cranial mononeuropathy; femoral nerve dysfunction; ulnar nerve dysfunction and sciatic nerve dysfunction ( sciatica ). Found here .
Mononeuropathies are localized to one area and can be treated with surgery, like carpal or cubital tunnel release surgery or a microdiscectomy for sciatic nerve dysfunction.
Polyneuropathy is the simultaneous malfunction of many peripheral nerves throughout the body. Polyneuropathy can be acute or chronic. Acute cases can be caused by infections, toxins and certain drugs.
Chronic polyneuropathy can be caused by diabetes, alcoholism, liver/ kidney failure or cancer. While diabetes can cause diabetic neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy occurs in people who are not diabetics. Certain types of cancer treatments and auto immune disorders (Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome) can cause chronic polyneuropathy.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy depend on which nerves are affected. Numbness, tingling, burning pain, muscle weakness and paralysis can occur if your motor nerves have been affected. If autonomic nerves have been affected, heat intolerance, excessive sweating or inability to sweat, digestive problems or difficulties with blood pressure control can all be symptoms (Via the Mayo Clinic).
For many patients, neuropathy can be reduced by treating the underlying cause. For diabetics, getting better control of their A1c level can help but, unfortunately, I have seen diabetics with well-controlled diabetes who still have severe neuropathy. For others whose nerve damage comes from injury or has no underlying cause, the focus of treatment is to reduce pain and symptoms.
Usually an EMG (electromyography) which includes a nerve conduction study is used to diagnosis peripheral neuropathy. In my practice, the most prescribed drug for neuropathy is Neurontin (Gabapentin). Most clients have a good response to Gapapentin, but some do not. Pain medication, certain anti-depressants, topical medication and a tens unit can also be prescribed.
Can you get disability for neuropathy?
As with all claims for disability benefits, the name of your diagnosis is not as important as the severity of your symptoms. A diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy with few symptoms may not be enough to qualify you for disability benefits.
Your peripheral neuropathy or its underlying cause must eliminate your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity in order to be approved for SSDI and/or SSI benefits. The SSA can evaluate your claim for disability in different ways for peripheral neuropathy.
The Social Security Administration can evaluate your claim for disability benefits for neuropathy under 11.14 Peripheral Neuropathies. This listing requires:
11.14 Peripheral neuropathy, characterized by A or B:
A. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities (see 11.00D1), resulting in an extreme limitation (see 11.00D2) in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.
In simple terms, Part A of this listing requires that your neuropathy affects your ability to even move. In Part B, you only need marked limitation in physical functioning but an impairment in mental functioning is also needed. This listing is difficult to meet (as are most listings). You may still be able to move, but it hurts and burns terribly to do so. Even if you do not meet this listing, you still may be found disabled in other ways by SSA.
If your neuropathy is cased by an underlying disorder, that disorder can be used to find you disabled. Unfortunately, SSA no longer has a listing specifically for diabetes mellitus. The SSA can also find you disabled based on the combination of your impairments. Neuropathy can, but does not always, occur alone and the combination of your symptoms from all your impairments may render you unable to work.
The Bishop Law Firm represents Social Security Disability clients in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Cary, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Smithfield, Louisburg, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids and surrounding areas in North Carolina. Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095.
Also read Overview of the Disability Process