Neuropathy is a painful nerve-damage condition that affects about 1 in 4 Americans at some point during their lifetimes. One common variation called peripheral neuropathy causes numbness, tingling, and pain. Neuropathy most often affects your hands and feet, which may make it difficult for you to perform your assigned work duties. Thankfully, the Social Security Administration (SSA) lists neuropathy in its Blue Book for evaluating disability claims. If your doctor diagnoses you with it, we’ll explain how to qualify for Social Security disability benefits for neuropathy.
Other, similar conditions that may also limit your ability to work full-time include:
- Cranial neuropathy
- Autonomic neuropathy
- Focal neuropathy
Things to Know Before Filing Your Social Security Disability Benefits for Neuropathy Claim
The SSA does award Social Security disability benefits for neuropathy if you meet all technical and medical requirements. Before the SSA reviews your medical history, they’ll check to see if you can pass all these eligibility requirements:
- You must have enough Social Security work credits to qualify for disability. If you’re more than 30 years old, you need 20 work credits. This means you worked at least 5 in the last 10 years full time while paying Social Security payroll taxes.
- Only people not currently receiving any Social Security benefits can qualify. People already drawing early retirement, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or regular Social Security cannot get SSD benefits.
- Your health issue(s) must force you to stop working for at least 12 months in a row. If you’re still working when you apply for disability benefits, the SSA will likely reject your claim. While the SSA says anyone earning more than $1,350/month cannot qualify for benefits, working also proves you’re not truly disabled.
What Can Cause Neuropathic Nerve Damage Bad Enough to Qualify for Benefits?
At least 20 million people in the U.S. have some form of neuropathy, according to the NIH. But many others may also have this painful health issue without even realizing it. We’ve ranked the things that lead to painful, disabling nerve damage from most to least common below:
- Diabetes (60%-70% of diabetics suffer from peripheral neuropathy)
- HIV+ individuals (affects 30% of people diagnosed with HIV)
- Chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments (affects 30%-40% of cancer patients)
- Metabolic syndrome (i.e., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes)
- Traumatic injuries (i.e., serious falls, car accidents, bone fractures, sports injuries)
- Autoimmune disorders (i.e., lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome)
- Work-induced repetitive stress injuries (i.e., carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica)
- Certain infections (i.e., West Nile virus, herpes, syphilis, chickenpox, shingles, Epstein-Barr, Lyme disease, hepatitis C)
- Blood clots and other vascular or circulatory disorders (i.e., vasculitis, peripheral artery disease, chronic venous insufficiency)
- Kidney and liver disorders
- Chronic vitamin deficiencies from excessive alcohol use (specifically, vitamin E, B1, B12, B6, thiamine, and niacin)
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Certain hereditary disorders (i.e., Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, familial amyloidosis, Fabry disease, metachromatic leukodystrophy)
What Will the SSA Look for In Evaluating Your Neuropathy Symptoms?
The SSA’s nearest Disability Determination Services (DDS) office will examine your medical evidence and claim documentation. This state-level review determines if your neuropathy symptoms stop you from working full-time at least one year. If the DDS concludes your symptoms significantly limit your ability to work, then you may receive monthly benefits. Here’s what they will look for when reviewing your claim:
- Your symptoms don’t get better, despite receiving regular treatments from your doctor. If you haven’t seen a doctor in a year, it will only hurt your case.
- You have involuntary movements in at least two different limbs (arms or legs).
- It’s hard or impossible for you to stand up from a seated position without help.
- You have trouble keeping your balance while standing or walking.
- Muscle weakness, twitching, cramps, numbness, or paralysis make completing your required job duties difficult or impossible.
- You have other symptoms that make it hard to hold down your usual full-time job. Think: Fainting, dropping things because your hands go numb, being unable to sit or stand as required, bladder incontinence, etc.
- You cannot grasp, pick up, or carry certain objects or lose fine-motor skills needed for your job. For example: You’re a cook who cannot whisk, stir, peel, or dice foods as usual, sprinkle seasoning, or plate dishes.
If 2-3 of these bullet points describe your situation, then you’re far more likely to get Social Security benefits for neuropathy.
What Medical Evidence Best Supports Your Neuropathy Claim?
Your application isn’t enough to get you Social Security disability benefits for neuropathy. The SSA wants to see all relevant medical records, treatment notes and tests from the past 12 months. These documents will best support your case to receive Social Security disability benefits for neuropathy:
- Nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test results
- Electromyography (EMG) test results
- Autonomic tests (such as the QSART) showing how well your arms and legs sweat
- MRIs, CT scans or muscle and nerve ultrasound imaging reports
- Nerve and/or skin biopsies
- Neurological exam results conducted by your doctor or a licensed rheumatologist
- Quantitative sensory test (OST) results
- Bloodwork showing any related vitamin deficiencies, toxic metal poisoning, high blood sugar (if you’re diabetic), etc.
- Genetic test results showing your neuropathy is hereditary
- Electroencephalography (EEG) test results
- Complete list of medications you currently take, including dosage and frequency
- A Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form your doctor completes and signs
- A symptom diary you keep showing how your neuropathy limits your daily activities
Bonus Tip: Be sure to include all health problems you suffer from and take medication for on your disability application. People with 3-5 health issues are far more likely to get disability benefits than those with just one condition.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Having an experienced Social Security attorney file your claim triples your chances of winning benefits within 6 months. A disability advocate can help you file your initial claim, gather all medical documentation and handle your appeal, if needed. Disability advocates work on a contingency basis, so you pay $0 for legal assistance if you don’t win benefits. And if you win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.