Strokes and SSDI Benefits
Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is restricted, which in turn decreases oxygen supply. Often, strokes are the result of a hemorrhage or blocked blood vessel in the brain and can cause significant physical impairments. Fortunately, some stroke victims may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to help cover the costs of treatment as well as living expenses. However, filing for SSDI benefits can be a difficult and time-consuming process, so if you are a Charlotte resident and recently suffered a stroke, it is important to contact an experienced SSDI attorney who can help you file a claim.
There are two types of strokes, although both are caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. The most common kind are called ischemic strokes and occur when a blood clot blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. The other type are referred to as hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by blood vessel breakages that lead to bleeds in the brain. Symptoms of both types include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face or limbs;
- Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding the speech of others;
- Sudden vision loss;
- Dizziness and loss of balance or coordination; and
- Severe headaches with no known cause.
If left untreated, a stroke victims could suffer permanent paralysis, mental impairment, and vision loss.
Eligibility for SSDI Benefits
To qualify for SSDI benefits based on a stroke-related disability, an applicant must:
- Not earn more than $1,170 per month;
- Have a disability that is expected to last for at least one year; and
- Have a severe disability.
After initial eligibility has been established, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will need to determine whether the applicant’s stroke meets the requirements contained in the Listing of Impairments. The first listing under which a stroke could qualify is Listing 11.04, Central Nervous System Vascular Accidents. A stroke will be considered a qualifying condition and automatically approved if an applicant can demonstrate that:
- He or she has difficulty understanding or using spoken or written communications; or
- He or she has trouble controlling and coordinating the movement of at least two extremities, which makes it difficult or impossible to walk, balance, or use his or her hands.
An applicant who suffered a stroke, but does not satisfy these requirements may still be able to obtain benefits if he or she can meet the requirements of Listing 2.00, Special Senses and Speech, which requires demonstrating that:
- He or she has suffered significant loss in his or her visual field;
- His or her corrected vision in the better eye is less than or equal to 20/200;
- The visual efficiency in his or her better eye is less than or equal to 20 percent with glasses; or
- He or she has lost the ability to speak and be understood by others.
Finally, an applicant must provide proof that he or she has suffered from one of these disabilities for at least three months.
Medical Vocational Allowance
When an applicant does not satisfy any of these requirements, he or she may still be eligible for SSDI benefits if he or she can obtain a medical vocational allowance. This requires providing evidence that the applicant cannot return to his or her past work or perform another appropriate type of work. In making this determination, the SSA assesses the nature of the jobs previously performed by an applicant. For instance, the SSA will take note of the level of exertion required to perform the work.
To complete the assessment, the SSA will request a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) report, which shows what types of duties the applicant is still capable of completing. RFCs are prepared by an applicant’s treating physician and explain the limitations that the stroke has created for the patient. For instance, a stroke victim’s doctor may note that the applicant has trouble walking, muscle weakness, and difficulty maintaining his or her balance. Alternatively, the doctor could note that the applicant struggles with reading, cannot remember directions, or cannot type or grasp things with his or her hands. The SSA will analyze this RFC as well as an applicant’s medical records to assess what types of stroke-related impairments he or she is suffering from. The claims examiner may also review the following types of records:
- Treatment notes;
- Hospital admission and discharge summaries;
- Lab tests and imaging studies; and
- Supporting statements from the applicant’s treating physician.
If the SSA establishes that an applicant is not able to complete his or her past work, it may attempt to propose alternative employment based on whether the applicant has any transferable skills. However, if a stroke victim’s limitations negate those skills, the SSA is more likely to approve the claim without requiring an applicant to attempt other work. When deciding whether there is alternative work that an applicant could perform despite the stroke, the SSA may also consider additional factors, such as the combined effects of age and the applicant’s educational background.
Stroke victims are often required to pay for expensive medical services for the rest of their lives, such as:
- Prescription medications;
- Physical, occupational, or speech therapy;
- Home modification, such as widening doorways, installing ramps, and adding railings;
- Mobility assistance equipment, including wheelchairs and walkers; and
- Home nursing care or assisted living care.
Fortunately, those who fulfill the SSDI eligibility requirements can receive monthly benefits that help cover these costs.
Call an Experienced Charlotte SSDI Attorney
Strokes can lead to devastating and permanent impairments, which can be prohibitively expensive to treat. This makes it especially important that stroke victims consider the option of applying for SSDI benefits, so if you recently suffered a stroke and believe that you qualify for SSDI benefits, please contact Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A., by sending us a brief message containing your name, phone number, and a description of your case or by initiating a live chat with a experienced SSDI attorney in Charlotte NC who can evaluate your case and also explain the SSDI filing process.