Social Security Help For Peripheral Neuropathy Related Disability

Diabetes is a common cause of peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition involving numbness, weakness, and pain most often in the hands and feet.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy (PN) can become so severe they prevent some sufferers from working. For these individuals, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two assistance programs:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) helps people with low, or no income that cannot work because of a disability.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) aids those who worked before becoming disabled. The qualifying number of years a person must work to obtain this benefit depends on their age. Older applicants are expected to have longer employment records than younger applicants.

Those who meet the basic criteria for these programs are subsequently assessed to see whether they medically fit the disability definition outlined in the SSA’s “Blue Book.”

PN Disability Criteria

The Blue Book contains lists of the physical and mental impairments deemed severe enough to prohibit gainful employment. One section of this book (section 11.14) describes the medical criteria specific to PN patients.

Those with PN must demonstrate, for instance, a “significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station...”

The “disorganization of motor function” includes symptoms such as muscle weakness, paralysis, involuntary movements, loss of control, sensory problems, interference with the use of fingers, arms, and hands, and problems with locomotion.

Info To Gather

Individuals with PN who cannot work, but do not medically quality for disability benefits, might still be granted assistance by having their physician fill out an RFC, or Residual Functional Capacity assessment. On the RFC a doctor specifies, for example, how long a PN patient can walk, or stand, in what ways the hand or gait functions are limited, and how much weight he or she can lift. This information lets the SSA know what a person is actually capable of doing.

Along with the RFC, those applying for benefits should submit as much medical evidence of their PN as can be gathered, such as:

  • Medical exam histories, and blood test results.
  • Vibration and monofilament test outcomes.
  • Skin biopsy results, nerve conduction studies, and electromyography.
  • QSART (quantitative sudomotor axon fiber neuropathy) outcomes.
  • A complete PN medication and treatment history.

This medical information can be mailed with a disability application, or the SSA will gather medical evidence for individuals who sign a release. However, sending the evidence with the application may speed the assessment process—which generally takes five months. Those denied assistance can appeal the ruling.

To get the application ball rolling you can visit a local Social Security office, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or get more information and apply online at the SSA website (link below).

Source: Foundation for PN/Deanna Power ; SSA Disability Info/Apply Online
Photo credit: Bev Sykes

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