Can you get disability benefits for Narcolepsy?

Can you qualify for social security benefits if you have narcolepsy?

You can potentially qualify for disability under SSD or SSI on the basis of any condition provided that it imposes functional limitations that are great enough to rule out a person's ability to work at a level that allows them to earn what Social Security refers to as a substantial and gainful income. This means work that a person has done in the past as well as work that they haven't yet done but could be expected to have the ability to switch to based on on their age, skills, education, and physical and mental capabilities.

So, how does all of this work? A disability examiner, or a judge if your case has gotten that far, will review the medical records to determine what your diagnosed conditions are. But that's just the start. The decision-maker will then look for evidence concerning how that condition affects you on a daily basis, either physically or mentally. That could mean how it affects your ability to concentrate, remember, stand or sit for a certain amount of time, or do any number of physical or mental tasks.

Narcolepsy, of course, is a very dangerous condition and can cause a person to sustain great injury (from, for example, sudden loss of muscle control, for those who are unaware of the condition's symptoms).

Not surprisingly, SSA looks at narcolepsy cases similarly to how it looks at epilepsy or seizure disorder.

This is what the SSA program operation manual has to say about the evaluation of narcolepsy disability cases:

"Although narcolepsy and epilepsy are not truly comparable illnesses, when evaluating medical severity, the closest listing to equate narcolepsy with is Listing 11.03, Epilepsy'Minor motor seizures.

The severity of narcolepsy should be evaluated after a period of 3 months of prescribed treatment. It is not necessary to obtain an electroencephalogram (EEG) in narcolepsy cases. A routine EEG is usually normal, and when special attempts are made to obtain abnormal rapid eye movement (REM) sleep patterns, they may or may not be present even in true cases of narcolepsy. Also, narcolepsy is not usually treated with anticonvulsant medication, but is most frequently treated by the use of drugs such as stimulants and mood elevators for which there are no universal laboratory blood level determinations available. Finally, it is important to obtain from an ongoing treatment source a description of the medications used and the response to the medication, as well as an adequate description of the claimant's alleged narcoleptic attacks and any other secondary events such as cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations or sleep paralysis."

Remember, just as with any condition, how a case goes depends on the strength of one's medical records and whether or not those records reflect that the individual's condition is severe and limiting with regard to daily function.

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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