Epilepsy is a neurological disease that is often misunderstood, partly because the symptoms and effects of the illness vary greatly in frequency and intensity. Epilepsy is usually defined as the result of abnormal activity in the brain. Symptoms can include temporary confusion, staring at a point or object, uncontrollable jerking of the arms and legs, loss of consciousness or awareness and psychic symptoms such as fear or anxiety. Residents of Houston who suffer from epilepsy are often uncertain if they are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The standards for epilepsy are included in the Social Security Administration’s “Listing of Impairments.”
Because epileptic seizures are discrete occurrences, the Social Security Administration has established criteria for disability benefits based upon the frequency and intensity of the seizures. A person with a diagnosis of epilepsy must first meet the general standards for disability benefits. The disease must prevent a person from performing the ordinary tasks of a job or occupation. The disease must also be expected to last at least 12 months or to result in the death of the patient. Epilepsy is rarely fatal, and thus, disability eligibility depends upon the frequency of seizures over a specific time span.
SSA regulations recognize four classes of disabling seizures. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures affect the entire brain, and they must occur at least once a month for three consecutive months even if the patient is adhering to a prescribed treatment regimen. Disclonic seizures must occur at least once a week for at least three consecutive months despite the patient’s adherence to a prescribed treatment. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures may be recognized as a disability if the seizures occur at least once every two months for at least four months in a row, along with a marked limitation in physical functioning, understanding or applying information, interaction with others, the ability to concentrate, persist or maintain pace or the ability to adapt or managing oneself. The same limitations can establish dyscognitive seizures as disabling if the seizures occur once every two weeks for at least three months in a row, despite adhering to prescribed treatment.
As with any application for SSD benefits, an application based upon epilepsy must be accompanied by employment and medical records. The existence of the disabling illness must be verified by the written opinion of a qualified health care professional.