Social Security Disability Benefits for a Seizure Disorder

July 11,2016
imgpsh_fullsize (15)

If you have seizures, you know how scary they can be. Seizures may render you helpless, and those around you may be confused and unsure of how to assist. Millions of Americans suffer from seizures. Seizures are the fourth most common neurological problem following migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, and strokes, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

An experienced Hackensack disability lawyer can help you understand how to obtain disability benefits for a seizure disorder.

What Are Seizures?

Seizures are episodes of abnormal electrical activity in the brain that can cause muscle spasms. Muscle spasms may result in major convulsions of your entire body, or you may have mild twitches or other symptoms without visible shaking. Seizures are basically misfires in the brain that give inaccurate information to muscles, nerves, sensory organs, and other parts of the body.

Although there are many different types of seizures, they fall into two categories: primary generalized seizures and partial seizures. The difference between these is where and how they initiate. Primary generalized seizures are characterized by widespread electrical misfiring of both sides of the brain at once. Many of these are caused by genetic factors. Partial seizures are limited to one area of the brain, often causing changes in awareness or consciousness. They may be caused by genetic factors, but are often traumatic in origin.


Common symptoms of seizures include the following:

  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Changes in behavior or mood.
  • Drooling or teeth clenching.
  • Eye movements.
  • Grunting and snorting.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Shaking or twitching.
  • Sudden falls.
  • Bitter or metallic taste.

Types of Seizures

When people think of seizures, they often envision “grand mal” seizures, or the kind that cause intense shaking and tremors throughout the body. Also known as “tonic-clonic” seizures, they can cause unconsciousness, convulsions, and muscle rigidity.

However, there are several other kinds of seizures, including the following:

  • Absence – Seizures that result in a brief loss of consciousness caused by irregular electrical energy in the brain. Symptoms may include vacant stare, confusion, headache, drowsiness or small repetitive movements like lip smacking and eyelid fluttering.
  • Myoclonic – Seizures that are characterized by sporadic, isolated jerking movements. These seizures do not happen repetitively, but may be a slight facial or other muscular twitch.
  • Clonic – Seizures causing repetitive jerking movements. Clonic seizures are often preceded by muscle stiffness that then leads to repetitive, sometimes quickly, jerking muscles that can affect any part of the body. Such twitches cannot be stopped by repositioning the body or restraint.
  • Tonic – Seizures that result in muscle stiffness and rigidity that usually last up to 20 seconds. Tonic seizures can become worse over time, and may occur during sleep without knowledge.
  • Atonic – Seizure resulting in loss of muscle tone. Atonic seizures are the opposite of tonic seizures, which involve muscle tightening. They can cause falling, trauma, loss of consciousness, and other symptoms.

Seizures may be caused by many different conditions. The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists seizures under neurological disorders on its Listing of Impairments. Seizures may be the result of any of the following impairments:

  • Epilepsy – convulsive epilepsy, (grand mal or psychomotor seizures).
  • Epilepsy – nonconvulsive epilepsy (petit mal, psychomotor, or focal seizures).
  • Brain Tumors.
  • Brain Trauma.
  • Cerebral Palsy.
  • Spinal Cord and Brain Lesions.
  • Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Myasthenia Gravis.
  • Many other disorders.

How to Prove Your Seizures Are Disabling

The SSA evaluates seizure conditions according to the type, frequency, duration, and nature of seizures you experience. A disability examiner will review medical records, functionality reports, and any objective medical tests that have been performed on you. He or she will determine the type and nature of your seizures. You must have documented evidence of seizures, along with a medical history that indicates onset, severity, and treatment you’ve received.

The examiner will consider when your seizures occur, how often you have seizures, and how long they last. Seizures may occur primarily during the day or at night due to sleeping patterns, hormonal fluctuations, and medication release. You may experience one seizure every week or dozens each day. Seizures may be simple twitches that last for 5 minutes, or they may involve loss of consciousness and confusion for a longer period of time.  The more frequent your seizures and the longer they last, the more likely they are to be disabling.

Your doctor should complete medical forms that completely describe your seizures as well as how they affect you now and in the long term. If possible, your doctor should document the cause of your seizures. You may have suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused lesions on your brain that result in seizures, or you may have endured a lifetime of epilepsy. The cause of your condition may help the SSA determine the expected length of time you have been and will remain disabled.

Applying for disability benefits for a seizure disorder can be daunting. You must provide adequate medical evidence as well as proof of impaired functionality. There are many things that can make that process easier, including continuous medical treatment, seeing a specialist, and getting a report from the specialist assessing your functionality. A knowledgeable Hackensack disability lawyer at the Hermann Law Group can help you navigate the complex legal process of applying for disability benefits for a seizure disorder. Call us at 877-773-3030 for a free evaluation of your case.