Facts about Medullablastoma and Filing for Disability

These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.

  • How to apply for disability and the information that Social Security needs

  • Who will qualify for disability and what qualifying is based on

  • Requirements for disability - Qualifications Criteria for SSD and SSI

  • How to Prove you are disabled and win your disability benefits

  • Facts about the condition

    1) Medulloblastoma, also known as infratentorial PNET, is a malignant tumor found in the lower part of the brain, usually in the fourth ventricle of the brain.

    2) Although medullablastoma is very rarely found in adults (less than 2 percent), it is the most common cancerous brain tumor in children, with nearly 40 percent of cases found in children under five years old.

    3) Medullablastomas may spread to the cerebrum, the spinal cord, and the central nervous system.

    4) Symptoms are caused by increased pressure on the brain and usually first show up as vomiting, headaches in the morning upon waking, or by the child becoming listless. The next sytmpoms are usually frequent falls, stumbling gait, imbalance and lack of coordination, sometimes accompanied by facial sensory loss, positional dizziness, nystagmus, back pain, or motor weakness.

    5) It is not uncommon for medullablastoma to be initially misdiagnosed as migraine or gastrointestinal disease.

    6) There is no known cause of medullablastoma, or any known predisposing factors that cause the disease. Current research is focusing on possible genetic causes.

    7) There are many diagnostic procedures to help diagnose medullablastoma, they may include a computerized tomography scan (CT or CAT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), neurological exam, or a biopsy.

    8) A spinal tap should never be performed on a child with medullablastoma. It could lead to serious complications and rapid deterioration of health.

    9) Although treatment depends upon a variety of factors (age of child, overall health, type and size of tumor, progression, etc.), treatment may include ventriculoperitoneal shunt, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and craniospinal irradiation.

    10) The risk for children with medulloblastoma is about a five year survival rate of 65-80 percent for children with standard risk medulloblastoma, and 60 percent for those with high risk medulloblastoma. Long-term effects of treatment may include hearing loss, height loss, endocrine dysfunction, and in some cases secondary tumors.

    Qualifying 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 and treatment notes that 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 also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.

    In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.

    Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits 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. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.

    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?

    There are several reasons but here are just two:

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

    Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.

    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. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.

    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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