Parkinson’s Disease

Will Parkinson’s Disease Qualify You for Social Security Disability?

A progressive degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system, Parkinson’s disease (PD) results from the death of cells which contain the neurotransmitter dopamine in the midbrain. Much is unknown about this debilitating disease. While some cases appear to have a genetic link, the majority of cases have no identifiable cause. Men are a bit more likely than women to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Although the incidence of the disease increases with age, about four percent of PD patients are under the age of 50. There is no standard test to conclusively diagnose Parkinson’s. At this time there is no cure for the disease, but there are treatment options to manage the symptoms of the disease.

Tremors are the most common early symptom of Parkinson’s and they usually begin on one side of the body. As the disease progresses, other symptoms develop including:

  • Slowness of movement (known medically as bradykinesia)—Fine motor skills that we use for all kinds of everyday tasks like writing, buttoning up a shirt, and so on are typically affected in the early stages of the disease. As the condition progresses, gross motor skills (like walking) deteriorate.
  • Balance and posture issues—In the later stages of the disease, balance can become difficult, leading to falls and bone fractures.
  • Limb rigidity—Because Parkinson’s often leads to extreme muscle contraction, arms and legs can became very stiff.

If you’re diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you may be able to continue working, at least at first. But if the time comes when your symptoms prevent you from doing any work, 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 PD 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 impairment listing 11.06 which specifically addresses Parkinson’s. Here what the listing says:

“11.06 Parkinsonian syndrome, characterized by A or B despite adherence to prescribed treatment for at least 3 consecutive months (see 11.00C):

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.

OR

B. Marked limitation (see 11.00G2) in physical functioning (see 11.00G3a), and in one of the following:

1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information (see 11.00G3b(i)); or

2. Interacting with others (see 11.00G3b(ii)); or

3. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace (see 11.00G3b(iii)); or

4. Adapting or managing oneself (see 11.00G3b(iv)).”

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. You may be approved if the SSA determines that you’re unable to do any work 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.

We know from our extensive experience in representing claimants that when applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to Parkinson’s disease, initial claims are often denied. While there can be many reasons for denial of SSDI or SSI benefits, one all too common reason is incomplete medical records. Your records will be reviewed as part of the application process. If they don’t contain enough information about how your symptoms of Parkinson’s disease interfere with your ability to work, your claim will likely be denied. That is why it is critically important to keep a detailed medical history. Because a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is based on the presence of symptoms, write comprehensive notes about how you feel every day. Keep a day-by-day record and note when your disease interferes with you accomplishing ordinary activities of daily living. Especially keep notes on how your illness affects you on the job. It is also important to regularly see your doctor and take your prescribed medications. You should also present your journal of symptoms to your doctor at each visit to assure they are documented in your record.

If you or someone you care about is unable to work due to Parkinson’s disease, 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. In addition, we can help you to obtain the right opinion from your doctor as to why you are unable to work based on Social Security’s criteria.