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Seizures

Preparing a Strong Seizure Case for Disability Benefits

There are approximately 2.5 million individuals in the United States that have some form of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition. The brain is able to control how the body moves by sending out small electrical signals through the nerves to the muscles. Seizures occur when abnormal electrical discharges from the brain change the way the body functions.

There are more than 29 different seizure disorders, and not all of them result in convulsions. In fact, seizures are experienced differently from person to person. Some individuals have only slight shaking of a hand and there is no loss of consciousness. Others do not have any shaking at all, but may experience brief moments where they lose touch with their surroundings and appear to stare into space. However, others may have total loss of consciousness and exhibit violent shaking of the body and even incontinence.

Many individuals with chronic seizure disorders are able to control seizures with medications and are able to function very well. However, if an individual who takes medications as directed, but continues to experience seizures that prevent him/her from working, they may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

When evaluating a seizure case for disability benefits, Social Security decision makers check to see if an individual is treating with a neurologist, and they check for compliance with all medications and recommendations by the doctor. SSA verifies the seizures are not a result of drug or alcohol abuse, and then they check if the seizures are occurring despite medication. Often times, when a seizure occurs, an individual will go to the emergency department and have blood work, an MRI, a CT scan or an EEG test administered. Sometimes, seizure activity or residuals can be seen on these tests, but other times the tests will be normal despite the fact a seizure has occurred. Therefore, it’s difficult to present objective evidence to Social Security which can prove that seizures are actually occurring. In order to prepare a strong case for disability benefits, it is important to go to the hospital after every seizure and report the seizures to your neurologist so there is a record. Reporting seizures will also help your doctor determine the effectiveness of medications, and make adjustments to better control the seizures. Also, keeping a seizure diary which tracks the occurrence of seizures and includes witness statements, may also strengthen a case. The diary should include the date and time of the seizure, and what happened. For example, document if there were convulsions, loss of consciousness, incontinence, or injury.

Though the seizure itself may only last a few seconds, there are residuals from a seizure that can be debilitating and last hours or days. For example after a seizure, an individual may feel very sick or tired, or need to sleep. If a serious injury occurred during convulsions, they may need medical attention. These residuals should also be documented in the diary and/or medical notes, and it should be recorded approximately how long the residuals lasted.

Overall, seizure disorders are difficult to prove in a disability case because there are not always objective findings that prove they exist. Regular treatment and documentation by a specialist is of utmost importance in proving this disorder. Statements from your specialist about how often seizures occur, and the length of time residuals last, are also vital to proving the case.

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