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Parkinson’s Disease and Social Security Disability

By June 16, 2020November 8th, 20233 min read

Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every year. The majority of these cases have no known cause, but the physical symptoms are quite clear. Here, we discuss the disease and whether having Parkinson’s Disease qualifies you for disability benefits through Social Security.

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms usually present on one side of the body, and that is the side of the body that will experience the most severe symptoms over the course of the disease. Although symptoms usually start in the extremities, Parkinson’s Disease eventually moves to the brain, and dementia becomes a problem in the later stages of the disease.

The most common early symptom is a tremor in one hand when that hand is at rest. Other typical Parkinson’s Disease symptoms include blank facial expression, postural instability (prone to losing balance and/or falling), speech problems, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), shuffling when walking, limb rigidity (due to excessive muscle contractions), and cognitive problems (behavioral, mood, or memory problems).

Unfortunately, Parkinson’s is presently incurable. Some medications have been developed to help manage the symptoms, but they work with varying degrees of success and not for every patient suffering from the condition. Physical therapy can assist with maintaining muscle strength over time.

Needless to say, these symptoms can range from making work difficult to making it impossible, so many who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease look into Social Security disability benefits, either through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Of course, you need to be officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but no one test can provide a definitive Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis; therefore, your diagnosis must be based on a full evaluation of your symptoms and a neurological exam.

As with almost all conditions, Social Security Administration (SSA) has a Blue Book listing of criteria you must meet to qualify for disability benefits stemming from your Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis. Remember, if you meet the listings, you automatically qualify for benefits. So, what are the criteria when it comes to Parkinson’s?

You must document one of these scenarios: 1) despite at least three months of treatment, an inability to control the movement of at least two extremities that results in extreme difficulty or inability to balance while standing or walking, use arms, or stand up from a seated position; OR 2) marked physical problems along with marked limitations in one of the following: thinking (understanding, applying, or remembering information); interacting with others; or finishing tasks (problems with speed, persistence, or concentration). For purposes of the listings, “marked” means less than extreme but worse than moderate.

Don’t meet the listings? You could still qualify for benefits under medical-vocational rules if you can show that your condition is so severe that it significantly limits your ability to perform even basic work-related activities. Make sure that your doctor documents all of your symptoms, and be clear and specific in your claim. Also, consider hiring an experienced Social Security disability attorney who can assist you with the entire process and increase your chances of ultimately getting approved for benefits.