Disability Based on the Devastating Impact of Epilepsy


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Disability based on the devastating impact of epilepsy

Published on November 1st, 2019 by Eric Slepian

At our law firm, we represent Arizonans whose epilepsy prevents them from working with their claims for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, known as SSDI and SSI respectively. According to the Epilepsy Foundation of Arizona, 77,000 people in our state live with epilepsy, which can manifest in a wide variety of symptoms.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is associated with seizures, which occur from abnormal surges of electrical activity in the brain. Mayo Clinic explains that epilepsy is a neurological disorder of the central nervous system that can cause many types of seizures or “periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.”

Most people with epilepsy take medication that controls seizures, but these medications are strong and can have serious side effects. Sometimes surgery is helpful. Epilepsy may be permanent, or seizures may eventually stop, according to Mayo.

Seizures are either focal or general. Focal seizures are called partial because they are associated with abnormal activity in just one area of the brain. A simple partial seizure does not cause loss of consciousness but can affect emotions and sensory function. Symptoms can include jerking, dizziness, tingling and visions of flashing lights. A complex partial seizure results in impairment of awareness or losing consciousness.

Generalized seizures, of which there are six kinds, involve the entire brain. Symptoms may include loss of awareness, stiffened muscles, falls, loss of control, jerking and twitching, incontinence and many others.

Mental health problems like anxiety and depression can be associated with epilepsy. Medication side effects can also cause mental health issues, including problems with memory, depression or cognition. Side effects may also include fatigue, coordination problems, speech impairment and others.

SSDI based on epilepsy

For purposes of an SSDI (or SSI) application based on epilepsy, the Social Security Administration looks at epilepsy as follows:

  • A claimant with a rare form of epilepsy called myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibers syndrome, or MERRF, qualifies for a compassionate allowance, meaning if the medical evidence supports the diagnosis, the person will automatically be found disabled because of MERRF’s severity at an early stage of the application process so benefits can start more quickly.
  • Epilepsy is a listed neurological impairment (11.02) in a list of impairments severe enough to merit an automatic finding of disability if certain medical evidence, manifestations of the disease and symptoms are present.
  • If a claimant does not meet or equal the listing, the SSA will evaluate the claimant’s medical limitations, age, education and vocational skills to see if the person meets the definition of disability.

Anyone with epilepsy who cannot work should speak with an attorney about eligibility for SSDI or SSI. If the person has already filed a claim, a lawyer can get involved at any stage of application, review or appeal.

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