Can You Get Disability Benefits for Epilepsy?
People who suffer from epilepsy may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures or periods of unusual sensations or behavior. Those with epilepsy may suffer from a range of symptoms, including loss of awareness or consciousness, staring spells, temporary confusion, uncontrollable jerking movements of the upper or lower extremities, fear or anxiety.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 3.4 million people across the U.S. suffer from the condition, and one in 26 people in the nation will develop epilepsy during their lifetimes. For some, symptoms may be controlled through medication, allowing them to continue to live their lives as normal. For others, however, their symptoms may be so severe that they affect every aspect of their lives and keep them from working.
Qualifying Under the Official Criteria
The Social Security Administration’s Blue Book lists epilepsy as a benefit-eligible medical impairment. To qualify under the official listing, applicants’ conditions must be severe and uncontrollable through medical treatment. Additionally, their medical evidence must come close to or meet the criteria outlined in the SSA’s official listing.
The criteria for applicants suffering from convulsive seizures include experiencing nighttime seizures resulting in significant daytime impairments, such as difficulty thinking clearly, coordinating physical movements or staying awake, or experiencing daytime seizures that cause a loss of consciousness or convulsions. The seizures must persist and occur at least one time per month after people have been on anti-seizure medication for three months or more. SSDI applicants with non-convulsive epilepsy must experience seizures occurring at night or during the day that cause significant subsequent issues, including difficulty thinking, trouble staying awake, lack of energy or other unusual behaviors. Those with anti-convulsive epilepsy must suffer seizures at least once a week despite having consistently taken anti-seizure medications for at least three months.
Qualifying Under a Medical-Vocational Allowance
SSDI applicants with epilepsy who do not meet the medical impairment criteria may still qualify for benefits under the SSA’s medical-vocational guidelines. Based on the records and other documentation they submit, Social Security determines applicants’ residual functional capacity, or the work they can still perform given the limitations imposed by their medical conditions. Taking this into account in relation to their ages, education and the transferability of their job skills, the SSA may find that applicants with epilepsy who do not match the listing criteria still qualify as disabled.