Can You Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Cerebral Palsy?
In evaluating whether you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, the most important insight we can share with you is this: The diagnosis of an impairment alone will usually not qualify you for benefits. Benefits are awarded if you can prove—with solid medical evidence—that your impairment has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months or longer and it prevents you from sustaining full-time competitive employment on a consistent and reliable basis.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is one example of how a diagnosis alone may not automatically qualify for benefits. The symptoms of CP can be quite different from person to person. A person with severe CP might need to use special equipment to be able to walk, or might not be able to walk at all and might need lifelong care. Such a person may not be able to work at all. A person with mild CP, on the other hand, might walk a little awkwardly, but might not need any special help and is able to be gainfully employed.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a general term for a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles.
Medical experts believe that cerebral palsy begins even before birth. Seventy-five percent of individuals with this impairment are born with it. But there are some cases of CP that occur during and after birth. In about 8 out of 10 CP cases, the cause is unknown. In the other cases, the cause can be traced to malnutrition, infection, or severe head trauma at an early age. There is no known cure for cerebral palsy, and treatment options include various therapies to cope with the effects of the disorder.
If you suffer from debilitating CP, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because the road to benefits can be difficult to navigate, it’s very helpful to hire an experienced local disability attorney to help through the process and present your case.
If CP prevents you from sustaining full-time competitive employment on a consistent and reliable basis, the Social Security Administration has two programs which may be able to offer financial assistance—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for those who have worked in the past and made Social Security contributions, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) designed to help those with little or no income.
The SSA has a set of procedures in place to identify disabilities that are medically eligible for benefits. These procedures are published in a handbook known as the “Blue Book,” and it includes a long list of various disabling conditions known as “listings.”
The Blue Book has an impairment listing 11.07 which specifically addresses cerebral palsy.
In order to qualify under this listing, your neuropathy must be characterized by one of the following criteria:
- The inability to control the movement of at least two extremities (either an arm and a leg or two arms or two legs), resulting in extreme difficulty in the ability to balance while standing or walking, to stand up from a seated position, or to use the arms.
- “Marked” physical problems along with a “marked” limitation any one of the following:
- thinking (understanding, remembering, or applying information)
- interacting with others (social problems)
- finishing tasks (problems with concentration, persistence, or speed), or
- regulating emotions, controlling behavior, adapting to changes.
(Marked means seriously limiting.)
- Significant limitations in communicating on a sustained basis due to speech, vision, or hearing problems (such as aphasia, strabismus, or sensorineural hearing loss).
If you don’t have medical evidence that meets the requirements of a Blue Book listing, there is another way to be approved for benefits. The agency will assess your “residual functional capacity”, or RFC, to determine if there’s any type of work you’re able to perform given the limitations caused by your condition. If the SSA determines that you’re unable to do any work—including types of jobs you may have held in the past—you may still be approved based upon your age, education, and work experience. Social Security will make this determination based on whether you can sustain competitive employment on a consistent, full-time basis, or an equivalent schedule.
A child with CP may also qualify for SSI benefits based on the Blue Book impairment listing 111.07. To satisfy this listing, the cerebral palsy must be characterized by disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in an extreme limitation, in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.
Winning disability benefits for cerebral palsy can be a confusing and frustrating process. If you or your child has debilitating CP, call or email us at Nash Disability Law for a free evaluation of your situation. We are local disability attorneys with offices in Chicago, Elgin, and Palos Hills. We can help you avoid costly disability mistakes.