Epilepsy

Does Epilepsy Qualify Me for Disability Benefits?

If you have frequent and severe epileptic seizures that interfere with your activities of daily living and prevent you from maintaining employment, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

The fourth most common neurological disorder, epilepsy can affect people of all ages. It is characterized by unpredictable seizures and can cause other health problems. Epilepsy is a spectrum condition with symptoms and seizure types that vary widely from person-to-person.

If you are unable to work due to the symptoms of epilepsy, the Social Security Administration (SSA) 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. Bear in mind that to qualify for disability benefits, a diagnosis of an impairment like epilepsy is not enough, and a doctor saying you are disabled is not enough; you must prove that your impairment is so disabling that it prevents you from being able to work.

The Social Security Administration evaluates epilepsy according to the type, frequency, duration, and nature of the seizures. Because epileptic seizures can often be controlled with anticonvulsant medications, you will need to prove that despite taking your meds as prescribed for at least three months, you are still unable to work due to your disease. You will also need to demonstrate that you are not consuming alcohol or taking drugs which can interfere with the effectiveness of your medications, or which themselves may be causing seizures

Detailed and up-to-date records are vitally important to winning any Social Security disability case. If you are applying for benefits due to epilepsy the SSA will want to see:

  • a diagnosis of epilepsy
  • a treatment history, including medications and other treatments and how they have affected your seizures
  • a statement from your doctor backing up your descriptions of the nature and frequency of your seizures
  • EEG results
  • a record detailing the frequency of your past seizures
  • a comprehensive description of your typical seizure, including all pre- and post-seizure symptoms, and
  • an account of your seizures from a third-party witness

There are two ways you can qualify for Social Security disability.

The first is to meet a Social Security listing. The Social Security Administration 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.” To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits due to epilepsy, you must meet the requirements of listing 11.02 in the Blue Book.
The criteria you need to meet to qualify under listing 11.02 will depend on the type and frequency of your seizures:

A. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (see 11.00H1a), occurring at least once a month for at least 3 consecutive months (see 11.00H4) despite adherence to prescribed treatment (see 11.00C).
OR
B. Dyscognitive seizures (see 11.00H1b), occurring at least once a week for at least 3 consecutive months (see 11.00H4) despite adherence to prescribed treatment (see 11.00C).
OR
C. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (see 11.00H1a), occurring at least once every 2 months for at least 4 consecutive months (see 11.00H4) despite adherence to prescribed treatment (see 11.00C); and a marked limitation in one of the following:

  1. Physical functioning (see 11.00G3a); or
  2. Understanding, remembering, or applying information (see 11.00G3b(i)); or
  3. Interacting with others (see 11.00G3b(ii)); or
  4. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace (see 11.00G3b(iii)); or
  5. Adapting or managing oneself (see 11.00G3b(iv)).

It is a fact that very few people who apply for Social Security disability benefits meet the strict requirements of the Blue Book listings. However, there is a second way to qualify—by proving that you are unable to perform any work due to your epilepsy, given your age, education, and past work experience.

Bear in mind that Social Security Disability is about whether you can work, not whether someone will hire you. Oftentimes our clients, especially those affected by epilepsy, say that they can’t work because an employer will find them to be a liability. While this may very well be true, the question is whether you can perform the job if hired.

Due to the tricky nature of epilepsy disability claims and the lengthy and complicated disability claims process, it is worthwhile to have a local, Chicagoland Social Security disability lawyer with significant experience in epilepsy cases review your claim and offer you the best possible advice for your unique situation. You can call Nash Disability Law at 312.626.8530 or contact us through our website for a free evaluation of your case.