Making a Successful Disability Claim Due to Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness and sudden attacks of sleep—even in the daytime. In more serious cases, the disease can also trigger hallucinations and episodes of partial or total loss of muscle control. There is no cure for narcolepsy, but in some cases symptoms can be controlled by taking prescription medicine or taking naps.
Since people with narcolepsy often find it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time, regardless of the circumstances, this impairment can cause serious disruptions in daily routines and work. Many narcoleptics face insurmountable difficulties in holding onto a job. Working while dealing with the symptoms of narcolepsy means that some would need a place to lie down and take frequent naps during a work shift. Most employers are unable to make these kinds of accommodations. Because of the drowsiness associated with the condition, many narcoleptics are unable to work at jobs that require driving machinery, using power tools, climbing ladders or scaffolding or similar jobs—in short, they cannot engage in any type of work where safety of the individual or their co-workers could be compromised.
If you are unable to work due to the symptoms of narcolepsy, 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 who are disabled with little or no income. But to qualify for either program, you have to prove that your impairment is so disabling that it prevents you from being able to work.
If you are incapacitated by narcolepsy, there are several hurdles you may have to overcome to be granted disability benefits. The Social Security Administration maintains a list of conditions with detailed requirements for when the SSA should find a mental or physical condition to be disabling. If an individual matches the requirements in the listings (also called the “Blue Book”), they should automatically qualify for disability payments. Unfortunately, there is no specific Blue Book listing for narcolepsy, but if criteria in other listings are satisfied, these should be considered in the evaluation of listing-level impairments.
However, there is another way to be approved for benefits. The SSA also awards disability benefits based on how your condition creates limitations for you and interferes with your ability to work. To qualify, you must demonstrate that your symptoms prevent you from sustaining full-time competitive employment on a consistent and reliable basis. Like all qualifying disabilities, your condition must be expected to last and keep you out of work for at least 12 months.
To prove that narcolepsy prevents you from maintaining fulltime employment, it is imperative that you work with your doctor to develop a detailed record of your symptoms and limitations. Detailed medical evidence along with objective findings will give you the very best chance of winning disability benefits based on narcolepsy. You should report your symptoms to your doctor, even if they are well-established. For example, if you have to take naps each day, or easily doze off in the middle of chores or activities, be sure to tell your doctor so that it becomes part of your medical record, and so that your condition can be treated properly.
Your doctor should explain in precise detail how your narcolepsy prevents you from working. Because of the loss of muscle control often associated with narcolepsy, your doctor should spell out how your narcolepsy affects your ability to stand, walk, and sit as well as carry and lift objects. Your doctor should also explain how your fatigue affects your ability to function.. The medical evidence should include the results of any EEGs, sleep studies, and genetic tests your doctor has conducted. Also, if you have kept sleep journals to document your sleep patterns, you should submit copies of those. If you have not kept journals, you should start doing so right away. Finally, submit a list of all the medications you take for your condition along with a description of any side effects you experience.
The application and appeal process for disability benefits for narcolepsy is complex and can be frustrating, but the experienced disability lawyers at Nash Disability Law can fight for your rights and we only get paid if you win your case. Contact us for a FREE review of your situation.