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Winning Social Security Disability Benefits After a Stroke

June 12, 2017

Joe didn’t know exactly what was happening to him, but he knew it wasn’t good. Suddenly, his right arm and leg went numb. His vision was blurred. And when he called out to one of his co-workers for help, his words tumbled out in an unintelligible slur. Joe was having a stroke.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “a stroke [also known as a cerebrovascular accident or CVA] occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced. This deprives your brain of oxygen and nutrients, which can cause your brain cells to die. A stroke may be caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Some people may experience only a temporary disruption of blood flow to their brain (transient ischemic attack, or TIA).” It is estimated that nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, the National Stroke Association says, and as many as five million men and women are currently dealing with the aftermath of a stroke.

The effects of a stroke can be devastating and can have an impact on nearly every part of your life. After his stroke, Joe, a proud, hard-working union carpenter for more than 30 years, found he could no longer even grip his hammer. For many stroke victims, like Joe, the most destructive result of a stroke is the inability to work and to earn a living. If you or someone you care about has suffered a stroke and are no longer able to work, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits, but the path to earning benefits can be frustratingly difficult.

The first thing you need know about a stroke and Social Security disability is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) treats strokes differently than other illnesses and injuries. Although, immediately following a stroke you are likely facing reduced physical capabilities, SSA will not even consider your application until at least three months have passed since your stroke. The reason is that it is not possible to determine exactly whether you will recover or instead suffer long term effects until three months have passed. Social Security does not pay benefits for temporary disabilities. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) a disability caused by a stroke or any other illness or injury must last or be expected to last for 12 months or longer, or result in death.

After three months, it is possible to qualify for disability benefits in one of two ways. The first way is when your impairment meets the criteria in SSA’s Blue Book (Listing of Impairments). To qualify under this listing (Section 11.04), your stroke must have resulted in:

A. Sensory or motor aphasia resulting in ineffective speech or communication; or

B. 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; or

C. Marked limitation in physical functioning and in one of the following areas of mental functioning, both persisting for at least 3 consecutive months after the insult:

  1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information
  2. Interacting with others
  3. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  4. Adapting or managing oneself

Not many disability applicants are able to meet the Blue Book criteria. However, there is hope, because there is a second way you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits, by proving that the effects of your stroke prevent you from doing work that you did before, and prevent you from adjusting to any other type of work that is performed in the national economy, based upon your age, education, and work experience.

Winning a disability case for stroke is not always easy, but it can be done. Don’t be afraid to get help. The attorneys at Nash Disability Law are experts in Social Security disability law and can present your case to the Social Security Administration so that they understand your unique situation. Contact us for a free evaluation of your situation.