Cerebral Palsy

October 21, 2014

Years ago I attended a talk given by a cardiologist who designed one of the first artificial heart valves. His innovation saved the lives of many and changed how an entire area of medicine was practiced in a very short time. I’ve often thought about this when I’ve seen new treatments quickly change what is possible for our disabled clients.

Medical advancements can pose challenges in Social Security cases. The doctors testifying during hearings and the judges may not be up to speed on medical advancements impacting your disability. It is understandable given how quickly things can change. This is where the attorneys at NASH come in. We can recognize that a Judge or testifying medical expert needs more information about a particular condition so they can better understand why our client is disabled by it.

One area where this has certainly been true is with our clients with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive movement disorder that is usually diagnosed in early childhood. Someone with cerebral palsy can be found disabled if they have an IQ of 70 or less or exhibit abnormal behavior patterns (perhaps emotional instability or destructiveness), or have a serious problem with their vision, speech or hearing. They can be found disabled if they have a serious problem using their hands or a serious problem standing, walking and balancing. Similarly, if they aren’t able to work full time because of their cerebral palsy symptoms they can be granted disability.

More people with cerebral palsy are living into adulthood than in years past. Little was known about the challenges adults with cerebral palsy would encounter. Several researchers investigated this and found that nearly 1 in 4 adult cerebral palsy patients will experience a serious decline in their ability to stand, walk and balance as they age. Some researchers refer to this as “pre-mature ageing,” Cerebral palsy patients will require a great deal of physical therapy to keep their mobility as they age.

Not surprisingly, I’ve seen more clients who have just applied for disability even though they suffered with cerebral palsy their entire lives. Many of them were able to work, finish school and in once case participate in track and field in the past, but find themselves unable to work currently because they are experiencing difficulty standing, walking and balancing.

A few months ago I attended a hearing where the medical expert could not understand why my client’s ability to stand and walk was diminishing. She testified that because cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disease (meaning the severity of the disease should not get worse over time) my client could not be experiencing more trouble walking than in years past. The medical expert thought my client was not disabled because she wasn’t up to speed on the new research.

I worked with my client and her neurologist to produce a very detailed report that explained why she couldn’t stand and walk the way she used to. I provided the doctor and the judge with a series of articles that explained the new research. Happily the medical expert changed her opinion. My client qualified for disability and Medicare. She was able to use the Medicare to enroll in physical therapy that has helped her keep the mobility she does have. It was a great outcome for our client. It may not have happened if we hadn’t updated the doctor on the new research. Having a NASH attorney work with you can be the critical difference between getting approved and getting denied.