Claiming Social Security Disability: What People With Parkinson's Disease Need To Know

Posted on: 22 December 2015

Experts believe that around 500,000 people in the United States suffer with Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's is a progressive disease with no cure, which means people with the condition must cope with increasingly severe symptoms. People with Parkinson's are often eligible for social security disability, but making a claim isn't as easy as you might expect. Learn why here.

How Parkinson's affects your body

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disease that can lead a to a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. While the symptoms are often relatively mild and only affect one side of the body, the side effects of the disease generally grow worse over time, and the disease can make many aspects of daily life difficult.

Some of the more severe physical symptoms can include bradykinesia, which can eventually make it hard to write or even walk. As the muscles contract in the body, many patients experience painful rigidity in the limbs, and people with the disease often become more susceptible to falls and bone fractures.

As such, people with the disease may find it increasingly difficult to work. Nonetheless, you may need expert help from an attorney at a firm like Morrison & Murff to successfully file a claim for social security disability.

Eligibility based on your ability to work

To successfully claim for social security disability, you must prove that you have an impairment that stops you carrying out 'substantial gainful activity'. The Social Security Administration (SSA) tests this rule based on the amount of money you can earn monthly. The monthly threshold for eligibility is $1,090.

If you're earning more than this when you apply for disability benefits, the SSA can immediately decline your claim. However, you can work part-time and claim disability benefits without immediate technical denial, as long as you don't exceed the $1,090 monthly earnings limit.

The process to assess substantial gainful activity is complex. The Administration considers many aspects of your ability to earn. For example, even if you aren't currently earning more than the threshold, the SSA may still deny your claim because they may believe you could earn more if you wanted to. Similarly, you could earn more than $1,090, but your attorney could argue that your employer has to make considerable adjustments to allow you to work that another company would not deem reasonable.

As such, the symptoms of your disease will make a big difference when it comes to filing a claim.

Eligibility based on your physical symptoms

To successfully file a claim for disability benefits, you must prove to the SSA that your condition will last at least one year and/or cause your death. The challenge for a Parkinson's patient is that the severity of the symptoms can vary significantly. To make matters worse, Parkinson's is not fatal, but the disease can lead to complications that reduce life expectancy.

Robust medical evidence is a crucial part of your application for benefits. Many people find that the SSA declines their first claim because they don't give the Administration enough information. As such, many claimants enlist the help of an experienced social security disability attorney to help them navigate the application process.

Your attorney may recommend that you visit multiple specialists for a complete diagnosis. For example, you may need to see a movement disorder specialist, a psychiatrist and a speech pathologist to assess the full extent and prognosis of your symptoms.

You should also ask the SSA for a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form. This form is useful in the early stages of your application. Your doctor will fill out the form, and he or she will explain why your symptoms cause problems in your current job. The evidence that your doctor can give via the RFC form is often very powerful.

You shouldn't ignore the psychological impact your condition has on your life, either. Many sufferers experience anxiety and depression as a result of their physical symptoms. These problems can make it even harder to carry out gainful activity.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive condition that prevents thousands of Americans working every year. Talk to an experienced social security disability attorney to make sure you get the benefits you need.