Applying for Disability Benefits When Recovering From a Stroke
The long-term effects of a stroke may be severe enough to prevent you from continuing to work. If this is the case, Social Security disability can help you maintain some financial independence as you focus on returning to health.
In order to qualify for disability if you’ve had a stroke, it is necessary to gather medical evidence that demonstrates the severity of your condition. Even then, it is not uncommon for a first-time applicant to be rejected. If you’re considering applying to Social Security following a stroke, a disability lawyer can help you present a compelling case that will increase your chances of success.
About Strokes and Vascular Accidents
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, strokes are one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. Each year, more than 795,000 Americans will have a stroke, and almost 130,000 will die from one.
A stroke — also known as a vascular accident — occurs when hemorrhaging or ischemia (lack of blood flow) prevents the brain from functioning normally. Stroke can lead to partial paralysis on one side of the body, speech problems and visual impairment. The effects of a stroke may be permanent, though often they can be mitigated through physical or occupational therapy.
Do I Qualify for Disability If I’ve Had a Stroke?
Clearly in severe cases a stroke can prevent someone from returning to work, either indefinitely or during their recovery. Vascular accident is listed as one of the conditions eligible for disability benefits in the Social Security Blue Book. In order to qualify, it must be proven that you have experienced either of the following more than three months after the initial incident:
- Persistent aphasia (language disorder) that limits your ability to communicate effectively
- Motor control problems or paralysis in two of your extremities (arms and/or legs) that have seriously affected your balance or movement
It is also possible for you to apply for stroke disability benefits under the listings for vision loss or transient ischemic attack.
If you don’t qualify under any of these listings, you can also apply for a medical-vocational allowance. To do this, a claims officer will complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, which considers the physical and mental limitations suffered as a result of the stroke, as well as your employment history, age, and education, to determine whether or not you can find meaningful work that won’t compromise your health.
Proving Eligibility for Stroke Disability Benefits
There are a few ways to prove eligibility for disability after having a stroke:
Through Blue Book listing 11.04 if you have suffered motor control impairment or severe impairment in writing or speaking ability
Through Blue Book listings 2.02-2.04 if your vision is impaired
Through Blue Book listing 2.10 if your hearing is impaired
Through Blue Book listing 12.00 if your stroke has caused brain damage or cognitive impairment
By proving your stroke causes impairment which keeps you from working, even if your condition does not meet any Blue Book listing requirements
To prove your eligibility, you will need thorough medical records, which may include:
- Diagnostic tests to prove you had a stroke and to determine its extensiveness and type
- Medical records outlining medical treatments and hospital stays
- Reports from neurologists, physicians, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and other professionals, outlining your condition, long-term losses, treatment and progress
- Hospital records outlining emergency room visits related to your stroke
- Records about any surgeries you have had
- A list of prescription medication you have taken
Many medical records will be available from doctors and hospitals. However, you can also keep your own records of medical appointments, treatments, doctors you have seen, medications you have taken and symptoms. With your own records, you can be accurate on SSA forms about the medical procedures you’ve had.
If you have been denied or are applying for benefits, contact the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco to schedule a free consultation about your case. Lisa M. Ritacco is an SSI and SSD lawyer with more than seven years of experience in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Since she focuses on this area of the law, she understands what is required from the benefits process.
How Do I Apply to Social Security for Stroke Disability?
There are two Social Security programs that offer disability for stroke victims. If you’ve worked previously and paid a certain amount into Social Security in the past, you can apply to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. If you don’t meet the requirements for SSDI, you can apply to the needs-based Supplemental Secured Income (SSI) program. Both SSI and SSDI require you to submit medical evidence of your condition.
Denied Disability Benefits for a Stroke?
There are many reasons why stroke disability claims may be denied, but one of the most common is lack of medical documentation. Having a stroke alone does not automatically qualify you for benefits. You must also have medical documentation showing you have suffered significant motor control, loss of the ability to speak or write — or another serious disability as a result of your stroke — and you must be able to show this disability will last at least a year.
Many stroke patients also have other medical conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes or traumatic brain injury. If you have been denied disability benefits after a stroke but are injured and cannot work, you may qualify for benefits through one of your concurrent conditions.
Keep in mind, too, that the timing of your disability claim can be an important factor if you’ve had a stroke. The SSA waits an additional period of time to determine the full effects of a stroke. Even if you have been denied, you may qualify if your condition worsens or you can secure the medical evidence of your impairment.
To review what you can do, contact a SSI or SSD lawyer immediately after being denied benefits. If you have suffered impairment due to a stroke and don’t have benefits, contact the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco to schedule a free consultation.
If you’re considering applying to SSI or SSDI for stroke disability, the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco may be able to help. More than 65% of claims are rejected initially, often due to a lack of medical evidence. Our team can help you gather documentation that may increase your odds of success. We can also appeal a previous rejection of benefits. To find out more, contact our office in Delaware County, PA to schedule your free consultation.