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Cervical Dystonia and SSA Disability Benefits

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A person with medication induced dystonia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)"]English: A person with medication induced dyst...[/caption]

Cervical dystonia, which can also be referred to as spasmodic torticollis, can cause involuntary contraction of the muscles in the neck or the tilting of the head forward and backward. Movements can be sustained or instantaneous, although it generally affects one specific area of the body such as the claimant’s neck or head.

Cervical dystonia is a rare condition which occurs more frequently in women than in men. It can occur at any age, although this is rare. Conditions generally get worse over time and there is no cure. Medical professionals may recommend either surgery or other injections to reduce the symptoms. Occasionally the condition will improve without treatment but this is unlikely.

Symptoms of Cervical Dystonia

There are a variety of symptoms experienced by claimant with this condition. The most common include:

  1. Movement of the chin straight up

  2. Chin pulled to the shoulder

  3. Abnormal head positions

  4. Jerking motion of the head

  5. Chin pulled straight down

  6. Radiating neck pain

  7. Headaches

  8. Severe pain which leads to fatigue

  9. Head tremors

  10. Muscle hypertrophy

Winning SSDI or SSI for Cervical Dystonia

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two methods to determine if a claimant is disabled: does their condition and symptoms “meet or exceed” a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments or does their condition leave the claimant with too little residual functional capacity to work (as determined through the medical vocational process).

The SSA does not have a specific listing for cervical dystonia, although this does not preclude the SSDI or SSI applicant from proving their condition is as severe as another condition which is listed. For instance, some claimants may experience symptoms which are similar to the Parkinson’s listing (11.00 Neurological Listing, Section 11.06 Parkinsonian syndrome) and may be able to prove they meet the listing if they have medical evidence of “significant rigidity, bradykinesia, or tremor in two extremities, which, singly or in combination, result in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.”

Proving disability for SSDI or SSI through a Medical Vocational Allowance

Most likely claimants who havecervical dystonia will have to prove that their condition and symptoms are so severe they are not able to perform substantial gainful activity. This process is done through a medical vocational allowance. The first step to winning SSDI or SSI through a medical vocational allowance is getting your condition properly diagnosed and seeking medical care from a medical doctor who can provide objective clinical and diagnostic proof that you cannot work.

The most debilitating symptom of this condition is the chronic pain. You will need clear and convincing evidence of how your pain interferes with not only your activities of daily living (cooking, cleaning, bathing, driving, etc.) but also how it affects your ability to find and sustain full-time employment.

Additional symptoms of this condition can include depression and fatigue which can also make it difficult to work. Hiring a disability lawyer can be critical to developing a SSDI and SSI case to educate the administrative law judge on how your cervical dystonia, as well as any other symptoms you have, keep you from working.
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