I have epilepsy, Am I Eligible for Social Security?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition, which may also be called a seizure disorder. This means that you experience seizures, which are not caused by another medical condition. There are multiple types of seizures, and the symptoms vary to mild, infrequent episodes, to multiple daily episodes. You may experience behavior or vision changes before a seizure comes on. The seizure itself might be a grand mal episode, which is the type more people are familiar with, where the person experiences full body shaking. Another type of seizure are absence seizures, or staring spells, where the person doesn’t move or twitches only one body part.

Epilepsy is usually diagnosed by neurological examinations, laboratory tests, imaging such as an MRI of the brain, and by EEG tests, which look at the electric waves of the brain to help diagnose epilepsy. In some cases, people experience frequent seizures without epileptic activity of the brain. These types of seizures may be best treated by a combination of neurological and psychological methods. Epileptic seizures are mainly treated by medication with close monitoring.

There are two main ways the Social Security Administration (SSA) can find you disabled because of your seizures. There are rules called the Listings of Impairments, and epilepsy is defined very clearly in Listing 11.02. The SSA recognizes the two main types of seizures, and calls them generalized tonic-clonic and dyscognitive seizures. For generalized tonic-clonic, you must prove you have episodes at least once a month for three consecutive months while compliant with treatment. For dyscognitive seizures, you must prove you have episodes for at least once per week for three months, while compliant with treatment. If you are unable to prove this frequency, they will consider fewer episodes, however you must prove you have severe limitations in your physical functioning, ability to remember and understand information, your ability to interact with others, maintain appropriate concentration and persistence with your functioning, and that you have an inability to take care of yourself because of the seizure episodes.

The best way to provide proof of this is to have consistent treatment with a neurologist or other epileptic specialist. They would ideally be involved in monitoring your medication and encourage you to keep some sort of diary or journal of the frequency of your episodes. It would be important to keep track of all the symptoms related to the seizure, including any warning signs, length of the episode, any post seizure symptoms, and details regarding your compliance with prescribed medications.

Another way that the SSA can find you disabled is if they find that despite your condition, you are so limited by your seizures that you would be unable to perform any work in the national economy. If your condition doesn’t quite meet the Listing, then the SSA will consider whether your seizures make it unlikely that you would be able to sustain working at least eight hours a day, or if your seizures would affect your concentration so much that you would be unable to learn any position, you would be excessively distracted, or you would be a hazard on the job.

Filing for disability can be a lengthy process, but people with epilepsy can certainly qualify as long as you are treating consistently, compliant with medications, and have well-documented episodes.