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Facts about Muscular Dystrophy and Filing for Disability

How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits

1) Limb-girdle, distal, Emery-Dreifuss, Beckerís, Duchenne, myotonic dystrophy, myotonic congenita, oculopharyngeal, and facioscapulohumeral are all common muscular dystrophy (MD) diseases.

2) MD diseases affect the muscles in the body, causing them to become weakened. Symptoms depend upon the type of muscular dystrophy disease and can vary greatly in location, age of onset and disease progression, but generally include muscle weakness, skeletal muscle weakness, loss of mobility, death of muscle tissues and cells, and lack of coordination.

3) More specific symptoms for MD include poor balance, calf pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty walking, drooping eyelids, curvature of the spine, frequent falls, gonadal atrophy, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy.

4) MD is caused by genetic deficiencies and mutations, and is entirely inherited. The most common form of MD is Duchenne muscular dystrophy, otherwise known as DMD.

5) Physical examinations and medical history are taken into account when diagnosing MD. In addition, physicians usually perform blood tests, electromyography, ultrasonography, muscle biopsies and genetic testing to determine disease diagnosis.

6) Gene therapy is currently being studied to determine whether or not it may be used to treat MD. Since there is no cure for MD, treatments include physical therapy, hydrotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers, and various medications that help to manage symptoms, such as anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroids.

7) Corrective orthopedic surgery for the musculoskeletal system may also be able to help patients relieve pain and improve quality of life.

8) Although MD can affect adults, it is most common in childhood. The progression of the disease depends upon many factors and can be slow and steady over an entire lifetime, or severely debilitating.

9) Support groups and self-help groups may be very helpful for those with MD who are experiencing emotional and physical issues due to the disease.

Can you qualify for disability benefits with this condition?

Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records. This includes whatever statements may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis).

It will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).

Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?

Speaking as a former Disability Claims Examiner, I can state that there are several reasons:

1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant and his or her disability attorney will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge;

2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. At the hearing level, of course, this is exactly what happens. And a number of disability representatives will also take such steps even earlier, at the reconsideration appeal level;

3) Disability judges, unlike disability examiners who decides cases at the first two levels of the system, can make independent decisions without being overturned by immediate supervisors--which happens frequently.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions

Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The Disability Decision Process and What gets taken into Consideration | Getting Denied for Disability Benefits | Questions about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | Social Security Disability Hearings | Social Security Medical Examinations | Social Security SSI Doctors | Social Security Disability Representation | Social Security Disability SSI Reviews