Can People Suffering From Shingles Get Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability and shingles

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is the same one that causes chickenpox. After having chickenpox, the virus stays inactive in the body of nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. However, the virus can be reactivated as shingles.

There are vaccines to lower the risk of someone getting shingles, but if you do, early treatment can shorten the infection time and reduce the risk of further complications.

Shingles causes a painful rash that can happen anywhere on the body but most often appears as a strip of blisters on the right or left side of the torso. This illness is not life-threatening, but it can be very painful and uncomfortable for sufferers. Because of this, it may make working much more challenging, and the pain could become so severe that it prohibits someone from completing the tasks of daily living.

Social Security Disability and Shingles

Shingles alone doesn’t match the criteria for Social Security Disability (SSD) that states that people can receive benefits if they cannot work for at least 12 months because of medical reasons. Shingles often clear up within a few weeks. However, shingles can be accompanied by a variety of complications, which include facial paralysis, hearing and vision loss and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) – when the nerve fibers become damaged after a case of shingles. Symptoms of PHN include nerve pain, major sensitivity to touch, numbness or weak muscles. These complications could get someone approved for SSD.

Unfortunately, there is no specific listing in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book for postherpetic neuralgia, so if PHN is your only issue, your request most likely won’t be granted. However, if your systems are as severe as a condition listed in the Blue Book, you could get approval based “equaling” a listing. The closest impairment in the SSA’s Blue Book is 11.14 for Peripheral Neuropathies, which states you must experience, despite prescribed treatment options, muscle disorganization causing interference in how well you can stand, walk and use your hands. Most likely, a doctor’s opinion of an equal listing will be necessary before you can be approved.

If you experience vision loss as a shingles side effect, it’s found in the Blue Book under sections 2.02, 2.03 and 2.04 while hearing loss and loss of balance can be found in sections 2.07 and 2.10.

Shingles and SSD Qualifications

If you don’t meet the qualifications for Social Security Disability specific to peripheral neuropathies, you may still be approved for Social Security Disability benefits based on a medical-vocational allowance if your physician feels you cannot do your previous job and the SSA determines you can’t switch to a new job because of your education, age, work history and Residual Functional Capacity (RFC), which evaluates the maximum mental and physical abilities you have in spite of medical conditions.

The main symptom of PHN is nerve pain, which can be a challenge to successfully prove exists, so it’s important to provide evidence that you receive treatment for PHN, and it’s best if this comes from a neurologist. You’ll also want to submit medical records, clinic notes, lab tests, hospital records and imaging studies for the Social Security Administration to examine.

The SSA will also want to know that you’ve tried all possible treatment options as prescribed by a doctor before requesting SSD benefits.

You’ll also want to ask your doctor to fill out an RFC form addressing:

  • How much weight you can lift, push, carry and pull
  • How long you can sit, stand and walk
  • Limitations reaching, handling or using your fingers
  • Ability to concentrate and stay focused
  • How many days your symptoms have caused you to miss work, arrive late or leave early
  • If you need to recline or elevate your legs
  • Treatment side effects

Find An Advocate Who Can Help

Because the case will be so intricate and complicated, it’s best to hire an experienced advocate or attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability benefits who understands your situation. Your advocate will know what the SSA needs to grant SSD benefits, and they can prepare you for your hearing and if needed appeal.

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