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Narcolepsy and SSA Disability Benefits

What is Narcolepsy?

According to the Mayo Clinic narcolepsy is a “chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep.” Workers with narcolepsy may find it difficult to focus and stay awake while they are at work. This causes, not only disruptions in your daily routines, but also can cause dangerous work conditions, especially for workers who perform physical or hazardous jobs.

Although there is currently not a cure for narcolepsy, workers who see the right doctors and take the appropriate medications may be able to manage the symptoms.

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Many people mistakenly assume that narcolepsy is caused by a lack of sleep but this is not the case. It also is not caused by seizure disorders or depression. In fact, scientists are not yet sure what causes this condition but think that stress, infection, toxins or genetics might play a role.

If you have severe narcolepsy you may be suffering from excessive drowsiness during the day, cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle tone), sleep paralysis and hallucinations.

Winning SSDI or SSI benefits for Narcolepsy

The overwhelming consensus for claimants who have narcolepsy is that it is VERY difficult to get SSDI or SSI if this is the only condition you have. The Social Security Administration has two methods of awarding SSI and SSDI benefits: claimants can meet or exceed a condition listed in the SSA Listing of Impairments (also known as the Blue Book this is a listing of all the conditions and symptoms the SSA considers automatically disabling) or prove through a medical vocational allowance that they cannot work.

The Social Security Administration does not have a listing for narcolepsy in the SSA Listing of Impairments so it will be up to the claimant to get the right medical documentation and evidence that they cannot work.

Winning SSDI or SSI for Narcolepsy through a Medical Vocational Allowance

The first step to winning benefits will be to get an accurate diagnosis and then begin developing your medical case. Although you may choose to see your general practitioner it is imperative that you also see a sleep specialist and have the proper diagnostic tests done. This will most likely require a completion of a sleep test at a sleep center with specialists who are trained to analyze your sleep patterns. Tests which may need to be performed include developing a sleep history, maintaining sleep records, completing a polysomnogram and multiple sleep latency test.

The second and probably the most important step is to hire a disability lawyer. Disability lawyers understand how a severe case of narcolepsy may impact your ability to safely perform work and can present this evidence to the judge. Whether you are too tired to focus properly on a task or you have memory issues the disability lawyer can discuss how this could be dangerous to other workers.

What is the Bottom Line?

The bottom line is with narcolepsy alone it will be very difficult to win benefits. If you also have another mental health disorders such as bi-polar disorder or depression this can strengthen your claim. Make sure you have a copy of your medical records, and they clearly state your conditions and how your disorder affects your work and activity of daily living. If you have a doctor who is willing to support your case and clearly describe your failed treatments and the severity of your condition this can help your SSI or SSDI case.
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