Filing for disability when a stroke has occurred and memory loss is an issue

My 55 year old mother recently suffered a stroke and I'm considering attempting to file for disability on behalf of her. She has no paralysis but has lost vision in one eye, brain damage, extreme difficulty concentrating, dizziness, equilibrium issues, fatigue, panic attacks, memory loss, etc. She also has a history of manic depressive bipolar disorder, and hypothyroidism.

Basically she is most certainly unable to function enough to work a basic job, but I am intimidated by the filing process and worried that I won't be able to supply the case worker with sufficient information. However she does have proof of the stroke damage from the recent hospital stay. It's hard enough for a person to recall their OWN 15 year work history, let alone me scrapping together tax records and asking my mother (who doesn't remember the year or who the president is or where she is) to try and recall.

Asking her to remember anything usually results in a long pause followed by an emotional episode. I hesitate to even subject her to being interviewed over the phone as it's too traumatic and bad for her blood pressure (which is what caused the stroke in the first place). Is there any special exception/help/mercy for this type of circumstance or are we SOL? The likelihood that she'll recover, and the extent to which she'll recover within a year is unknown. Any advice is greatly appreciated. I don't know what to do.

First of all, I am so sorry to hear about your mother. Since your mother is 55 and you are already thinking of filing for disability, you may wish to file a claim as soon as possible. I say that because in one type of approval known as a medical vocational allowance (this is the type of approval where a disability examiner will investigate whether or not she can return to her past work or do some type of other work), the rules turn to a person's favor when they turn age 50. They also become more favorable again at age 55. It sounds from your description that your mother has significant limitations.

However, there is also a second means of approval which is known as meeting or equaling the requirements of a listing in the SSA adult impairment listings. There is a listing for stroke. There is also a listing that covers bipolar disorder. I will include links to this site's pages on the stroke and bipolar listings.

Try to piece together your mother's work history as best you can though I certainly understand the issues you describe. Perhaps she has friends or other relatives who are familiar with her work history. SSA will mostly focus on the jobs that she has had for approximately one year or longer.

As I read your email, it sounds as though her stroke residuals are severe. Keep in mind, though, that strokes are treated like certain surgeries and heart attacks, meaning that SSA will defer action on the case for 3 months to assess how and if she medically improves (since this sometimes is the case).

As to the interview, you can do this for her or preferably with her. Just have all the information (work history, medical treatment sources) prepared in advance to make it go as easy as possible.

I wish you the best of luck, sincerely.

Here are those links:

Filing for disability based on stroke

What Happens During A Social Security Disability or SSI Interview?

What to bring to a disability interview when you apply

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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