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Seizure Disorder, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits

Disability Benefits can be difficult to win on the basis of seizures for this reason: The seizure disorder listing (in the social security disability list of impairments, the blue book) is fairly specific about the need to have A) a documented frequency of seizures and B) these seizures must occur despite adherence to prescribed treatment.

What does this mean? First of all, it means that if a disability examiner or disability judge at a hearing has reason to believe that a medication compliance issue is involved, it may effectively invalidate the case. Medication compliance simply means taking the medicine that has been prescribed by a doctor and taking it exactly as directed. Why does the medication compliance issue exist? The social security viewpoint is this: Can a claimant's condition be considered disabing if they are not taking their prescribed meds, and would it be less limiting if they took their meds as directed by a doctor.

Documention of seizures, of course, is the other primary factor in evaluating social security disability claims and SSI claims based on seizures. Simply put, social security will not simply take a claimant's word that they experienced X number of seizures within a specific timeframe. The seizures need to be documented to prove that they did occur, and preferred documentation will always be that which bears the final signature of a medical doctor. In fact, from social security's point of view, documentation is not "medical" unless it is signed off by an MD, or by an other-wise approved medical specialist (usually, this means that the individual--with the exception of a physician assistant--can write prescriptions, so a podiatrist's records could count, and a chiropractor's records would not).

Now having said all this, even if seizures are not medically documented, a claimant (or child claimant) can still present a journal or diary of seizure occurrences to a disability examiner or disability judge. Why is this type of information considered? Because the reality of seizures is that they may occur frequently and have short duration. And for adults and parents of children with epilepsy, it may make little sense to drive to see a doctor each time seizures occur.

For more on the discussion of seizure disorder and the listings: Applying for disability with seizure disorder. Excerpt: "Per the listing book, i.e the social security "blue book", individuals applying for Social Security disability must have been having seizures more than once a month in spite of three months of prescribed treatment if the epilepsy is convulsive in nature.".

About the condition

Seizure disorder, also known as epilepsy, is a chronic disorder that is distinguished by unprovoked seizures. An epileptic seizure is caused by electrical neuronal activity. Seizure disorder is one of the most serious neurological disorders, affecting nearly 50 million people throughout the world at one time or another. Epilepsy cannot be cured, though it can usually be controlled with medication or in severe cases, surgery. Although the majority of people can control their symptoms and seizures through medication, there are still an estimated 30 percent who cannot control their seizures, even with medication. An epileptologist is a doctor who specializes in epilepsy. The study of seizures is a part of neuroscience and treatment is a subspecialty of neurology.

An epileptic seizure is usually marked by a change in mental state and muscle convulsions caused by abnormal neuronal brain activity. Epilepsy is classified in five different ways: first cause (etiology) observable manifestations of the seizures (semiology), location of the brain they originate, discrete yet identifiable medical syndromes and by the event that triggers them.

Although seizure disorder or epilepsy is marked by unprovoked seizures, there are still ‘triggers’ that may cause the seizure to be brought on. These triggers are obviously harmless activities that should not bring about a seizure in the general public, such as reading or flashing lights. If a seizure is due to something such as a head injury or withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, it not considered an epileptic seizure. Seizure disorder normally happens in a spontaneous way, though environmental factors can increase the chances in someone with known epilepsy. Some of these factors are: sleep deprivation, illness, alcohol or drug consumption, strobe lights, menstruation, constipation and the transition between being asleep and being awake, called hypnagogia. Even though many people think that flashing lights are the most common environmental trigger for an epileptic, it is estimated that only 2-14 percent of epileptics are triggered by flashing lights.

There are many causes of epilepsy, though a particular cause has not been definable. Some of the known causes are: abnormalities in the nervous system, genetic factors, cerebral palsy, brain lesions, repeated exposure to toxins and mutations in genes.

There are many different seizure types and seizure syndromes. Symptoms may range depending on the type, but the most common symptoms are loss of consciousness, sporadic jerking movements, convulsions, muscle rigidity muscle stiffness) and loss of muscle tone. Diagnosis requires repeated seizures and is based on medical history. There are many different tests that can be used to determine epilepsy, such as an EEG (electroencephalography) which records a patient’s brain activity or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) which allows detailed imaging of the brain. There are many different types of brain monitoring and imagine technologies used to discover epilepsy.

Treatment for seizure disorder can be varied, though the most common form of treatment is through anticonvulsant drugs. There are many different types and the type prescribed will depend upon many factors. If medications do not help, epilepsy surgery may be an option.

If you are in the presence of an epileptic seizure the proper way to respond is to dial 9-1-1 and simply keep them from self-injury (sharp edges, etc.) and if possible, roll them on their side so that they are able to breathe properly. One thing that should be mentioned is that putting something in one’s mouth to keep them from swallowing their tongue should NEVER be done. They cannot swallow their tongue, the worst they can do it bite it and the chances of that happening are higher if something is placed within their mouth.

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

Related Body System Impairments:

Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI with Multiple Sclerosis MS
Why Is It Hard to be Found Disabled for Social Security Disability or SSI for Seizures?
Do You Automatically Get Approved For Disability If You Had A Stroke?
Facts about Mini Strokes and Filing for Disability
Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Seizure Disorder, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Why is Charcot-marie-tooth not on the Social Security Disability list of impairments?
Charcot-marie-tooth disease and Filing for Disability
Social Security Disability SSI and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Dystonia and Filing for Disability
Dysautonomia and Filing for Disability
Grand Mal Seizures and Filing for Disability
Narcolepsy, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Epilepsy and Filing for Disability
Hydrocephalus and Filing for Disability
Memory Loss and Filing for Disability
Facts about Stroke and Filing for Disability

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria