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Winning SSDI for Strokes

A stroke is generally caused by a blocked artery in the brain, due to fatty deposits or blood clot or a ruptured cerebral artery which is bleeding in the brain (cerebral hemorrhage). Other strokes may be caused by cerebral aneurysms.

Strokes can vary in severity, and individuals, depending on the type and severity of the stroke, may experience a variety of symptoms including loss of vision, paralysis, changes in behavioral style, memory loss, speech and language problems, slow or cautious movements and the inability to speak.

Getting SSDI for a Stroke

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two methods they use to award claimants, who have suffered a stroke, SSDI benefits. First the SSA will determine if the claimant’s condition is so severe it meets the SSA Listing of Impairments.

What is the Listing of Impairments? It is a list of all the conditions the SSA finds automatically disabling. If the claimant’s condition “meets or exceeds” one of the listings the SSA assumes they are unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least 12 continuous months and they will automatically award the claimant SSDI (assuming they meet the nonmedical requirements of the SSDI program).

SSA Listing of Impairments for Strokes

Strokes are evaluated under section 11.04 Central Nervous System Vascular Accidents and the claimant will not be evaluated until at least 3 months after the stroke.

According to this listing the claimant must have:

A. Sensory or motor aphasia resulting in ineffective speech or communication; or
B. Significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station (see 11.00C).

Meeting Part A of the Listing for Stroke

This listing can be a bit confusing. What does the Social Security Administration mean by Aphasia? Aphasia means the claimant may be unable or have difficulty expressing themselves through speech or they have difficulty comprehending others.

The types of aphasia can vary. Some claimants may be unable to understand words that are spoken or written. Others may be unable to form the words they would like to speak. Others may be completely unable to understand or to speak; while others simply speak very slowly.

So how does a claimant know if they meet Part A of the listing? The language processing center for most individuals is in their left side of their brain, and a severe left side brain stroke will have a higher probability of affecting a person’s ability to communicate. To meet Part A of the listing the SSDI claimant must prove that their communication is ineffective. The SSA will evaluate the claimant’s content, clarity and sustainability.

If the claimant does not meet Part A of the listing, the SSA will evaluate if they meet Part B.

Meeting Part B of the Listing for Stroke

Claimants can meet Part B of the listing if they can prove that two of their extremities are impaired. For example, if the stroke impairs both of the claimant’s legs, both arms or one leg and one arm, they may be considered impaired.

The SSA will evaluate the claimant’s gross movements, dexterous movements, their gait, and the ability to stand and maintain posture. For example, if you are unable to walk or stand for 6 to 8 hours and you also are unable to effectively use your hands, you may be considered disabled. If your gait or balance is uncoordinated and does not allow you to function in a work setting, this may also be considered disabling.

So what if one leg was affected? The claimant would be considered not disabled, unless they could prove that they needed to use a cane or a quad cane to assist them, which would eliminate their ability to use their arms in certain work conditions.

Additionally, if you cannot walk 6-8 hours this limits you ability to perform non-sedentary work, but the inability to use your hands to perform dexterous movements such as writing, picking up small objects, or typing may eliminate your ability for sedentary work and you may be determined disabled.

What if the claimant’s stroke symptoms do not meet a listing?

If the claimant’s condition does not meet or exceed the listing for a stroke they can be considered disabled, but they must prove, through a medical vocational allowance, that they are unable to work their current job, any past relevant job, or they are unable to retrain for new work given their age, work history, education, and medical condition. The SSA will also consider if the stroke victim has any other conditions, such as depression, which may lower their residual functional capacity to work.