Monday, February 4, 2013

Stroke and Social Security Disability

If you have suffered a stroke, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is the rapid loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia (lack of blood flow) caused by blockage (thrombosis, arterial embolism), or a hemorrhage.  As a result, the affected area of the brain cannot function, which might result in an inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, inability to understand or formulate speech, or an inability to see one side of the visual field.

In adult disability claims, Social Security uses the five-step sequential evaluation in deciding whether the claimant is entitled to disability benefits. Under the first two steps, the SSA will determine whether the claimant is working, and whether his or her impairment is considered “severe.”

Once the first two steps are decided in the claimant's favor, there are two basic ways that a person can qualify for Social Security benefits due to  stroke: 1. the individual can meet the requirements of a listing set out in Social Security's list of qualifying impairments or, 2. show that he or she is unable to work.
Social Security uses the Listings of Impairments manual as their guide to determine whether a claimant meets or does not meet the Social Security Administration's requirements for total disability. 
The Social Security Administration generally calls stroke a “Vascular Accident".  This listing can be found under the part that deals with neurological impairments. More specifically, the Social Security Disability listing for stroke is found in Section 11.04. (Note that Social Security will not evaluate the claim of a claimant who has suffered a stroke until at least three months after the stroke.) To be able to obtain Social Security Disability benefits under this listing, the claimant must be unable to:

  • speak or write effectively due to either sensory aphasia (fluent, nonsensical speech and inability to understand, also called receptive aphasia) or expressive aphasia (difficulty forming words, also called motor aphasia), OR

  • control the movement of two extremities (either an arm and a leg or two arms or two legs), causing serious problems walking and balancing or using your hands to grasp and manipulate objects. 

If a claimant's condition is severe but not at the same or equal level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then the Social Security Administration must go to step 4 and 5 of the disability process and determine if the condition interferes with the person's ability to do the work that he or she did previously (during the last 15 years). 
If the claimant cannot do the work performed in the past 15 years, the Social Security Administration will see if he or she is able to adjust to other work. The Social Security Administration will consider the persons' medical conditions as well as his or her age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills that the claimant may have. If the claimant cannot adjust to other work, the claim will be approved. If the claimant can adjust to other work, the claim will be denied.
To contact a local Connecticut support organization that assists survisors of strokes visit: