Social Security judges accept that your seizure disorder can prevent you from performing any type of work, and thus qualify for disability benefits. As you may know, Social Security defines disability in terms of your capacity to work – you can win disability benefits if we can show that your medical condition prevents you from performing the duties of a simple, entry level job.
Generally, in my experience, the cases involving seizures fall into one of three categories:
- clients who experience grand mal seizures two or more times per month and multiple petit mal seizures per month, not controlled by medication
- clients who rarely suffer grand mal seizures but who experience multiple petit mal seizures during the course of a month. Medication may mostly control the seizure activity but the side effects of medication are significant
- clients whose main impairment is some other medical condition but who experiences occasional seizures that are not controlled by medications
Often my seizure clients tell me that their anti-seizure medications have severe side effects such as extreme fatigue and mental confusion, and they also tell me that if they experience a grand mal seizure, they are so fatigued by the experience that they cannot perform any work-level task for at least 24 hours.
At a minimum, seizure disorder can eliminate categories of jobs for claimants who experience seizures that cannot be fully controlled by medications, including:
- jobs on ladders, ropes and scaffolds
- jobs that require the use of hazardous equipment or machinery
- jobs that require work at unprotected heights
Winning Argument #1 – Meeting a Listing for Seizure Disorder
Social Security recognizes that some medical conditions are so severe that anyone so diagnosed is automatically disabled. In its “listings,” Social Security publishes specific diagnostic criteria for a variety of serious medical and mental health conditions. If you meet a listing, you win without the need to show specifically why your condition leaves you unable to work.
The listing that applies to seizure disorder is at Listing 11.00, and more specifically, Listings 11.02 and 11.013.
Listing 11.02 describes grand mal seizures that occur at least once a month despite 3 months of treatment. These seizures must involve loss of consciousness or convulsions.
Listing 11.03 describes petit mal seizures that occur at least once a week and “significantly interefere” with daily activities.
Social Security intentionally makes it difficult to meet a listing and I have found that the best technique to do so is to present your treating doctor with a checklist that tracks the listing and adds a few questions that discuss how your seizures impact your daily functioning.
Winning Argument #2 – Proving that Your Capacity to Perform the Tasks of Even a Simple Entry Level Job Have been Compromised by your Seizure Disorder and/or Other Medical Conditions
Many of my clients experience significant seizure activity but still do not meet a seizure listing. In these cases I argue for disability based on another concept for disability that is accepted by Social Security judges. This argument is called the “functional capacity” idea of disability, and basically we are contending that as a result of your seizure activity, medication side effects, the impact of other medical problems and any other factors, you would not be a reliable employee at any type of job.
There are many reasons why your job reliability could be compromised:
- you need too many unscheduled breaks from work
- you would miss too many days from work
- you do not have sufficient attention and concentration to perform your job duties
- you can’t remember even simple job instructions
It may be that your seizure disorder creates some work limitations, while another condition creates other work limitations. Either way, I present a functional capacity case by creating a functional capacity checklist, ask your doctor to check off the boxes and submit that to the judge. The checklist I use, by the way, is derived from the official functional capacity form that Social Security uses internally. I add a few things and delete a few others but a filled out form can go a long way to help convince a judge to accept my argument.
Seizure Disorder Case Studies – over the years, I have written up case studies describing my experiences in court with a variety of cases. Here is a case study of a recent seizure disorder claim that I tried.