Cropped shot of a senior couple meeting with a consultant to discuss paperwork. Concept of Can You Get Disability for Seizures

If you have epilepsy, can you get disability for seizures? If you have been diagnosed with epilepsy by a licensed medical professional, and you can not work for at least 12 months due to your condition, you may qualify for benefits. However, you must provide documented evidence that shows proof of epilepsy and symptoms of your condition.

What Are the Types of Epilepsy?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than three million adults are afflicted with epilepsy and need to understand how, and when, you can get disability for seizures. For some people suffering from epilepsy, medications are effective, although expensive. For others, epileptic seizures take a significant toll on their health and everyday life, leaving them exhausted, sore, and unable to work for days at a time, or even hold down a job at all. Epileptic seizures can make it dangerous to work, especially when work requires extensive standing for long periods, carrying equipment, walking up and down stairs, and climbing ladders.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees disability benefits and divides epilepsy and epileptic conditions into two distinct categories: convulsive epilepsy and non-convulsive epilepsy. Under SSA guidelines, each category has specific requirements that must be met to receive disability benefits.

Convulsive Epilepsy

Convulsive epilepsy is considered the most severe and dangerous type of epilepsy. A convulsion is a type of seizure that involves bursts of electrical activity in the brain. The symptoms and effects of a convulsive epileptic seizure depend on where in the brain the seizure is occurring. In most cases of convulsive epilepsy, a person experiences rigidity in body parts like arms and legs, uncontrolled muscle spasms, and altered consciousness. Common symptoms of convulsive epilepsy include:

  • Breathing changes
  • Eyes rolling back in the head
  • Face turning blue or red
  •  Jerky movements of arms, legs, or the head
  • Stiffening of arms, legs, or the entire body
  • Inability to respond by speech or motion

Symptoms of convulsive epilepsy typically last from several seconds to several minutes, but they can last up to five minutes. It is not uncommon for a person with convulsive epilepsy to experience a second convulsion within minutes of the first one. Since convulsive seizures can create violent, uncontrollable body movements and shaking in the head, they can cause brain injuries in some people afflicted with epileptic episodes.

Non-Convulsive Epilepsy

Non-convulsive epilepsy was originally described in patients with chronic epilepsy, but it is now recognized with increased frequency in other patient populations, especially patients who are critically ill. The diagnosis and treatment of non-convulsive epilepsy are not straightforward and depend on many variables including clinical settings, EEG findings, and patient history showing signs of epileptic seizures. Common symptoms of non-convulsive epilepsy include:

  • Behavioral changes
  • EEG changes without major motor signs
  • Mental confusion
  • Twitching movements
  •  Rapid eye blinking
  • Staring blankly into space

Non-convulsive epilepsy is defined as epilepsy without a clinically obvious motor component. Unlike convulsive epilepsy, non-convulsive epilepsy may not be connected to any type of bodily motor component but may cause subtle body movements such as eye blinking or facial twitching.

Can You Get Disability for Seizures?

If you are diagnosed with epilepsy by a licensed medical professional, you may be able to get disability benefits with documented evidence of your condition. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you will need to have a neurologist provide documentation and medical evidence of your epilepsy diagnosis. The neurologist will also need to witness an actual seizure as medical proof of your epilepsy to properly diagnose you with convulsive epilepsy or non-convulsive epilepsy.

Generally, you are eligible for disability benefits for epilepsy if you provide medical proof of your condition and prove that your medical symptoms or treatments for your epilepsy leave you unable to work, and show that your condition is expected to last for at least one year. To qualify for benefits, the SSA requires that you meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. You experience tonic-clonic seizures at least once a month for at least three consecutive months, even though you are following a prescribed treatment plan by your doctor.
  2. You experience dyscognitive seizures that occur at least once a week for three or more consecutive months, even though you are following a prescribed treatment plan by your doctor
  3. You suffer from generalized tonic-clonic seizures or dyscognitive seizures once every two months (or more frequently) for four or more consecutive months, and they occur even though you are on a medical treatment plan, and you also experience limitations in at least one of the following areas:
  •  Ability to concentrate or maintain pace
  •  Ability to remember, understand, or apply information
  • Ability to manage yourself
  •  Ability to adapt to a situation
  • Ability to interact with others
  • Ability to perform physical functions

Steps to Document Your Condition

To determine who is eligible for Social Security disability, the SSA requires certain information which includes detailed medical documentation, as well as nonmedical evidence that verifies your epilepsy. Benefits for epilepsy can be awarded with proof of the following information:

Medical Evidence

When submitting medical evidence for disability benefits, you should include documentation for all medications you are taking and all medical treatments you are receiving. Documentation must include evidence of medications and treatments for at least three consecutive months, even if you don’t always see the same doctor. Medical treatments should include all types of treatments including imaging tests and results from electroencephalography (EEGs), computerized tomography (CT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), and X-rays.

Non-Medical Evidence

Nonmedical evidence should include written statements by you, family members, fellow workers, or employers about how your epilepsy impairs or restricts your work efforts and your daily activities. You should include proof that you are currently receiving or have received treatment plans from your doctors. You should also show proof of any symptoms or side effects that continue, even though you are following your prescribed medical treatment by your doctor.

Criteria for Receiving Disability if You Have Seizures

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes seizures (short changes in normal brain activity). Seizures are the main sign of epilepsy and can have various effects on brain activity and bodily functions based on the area of the brain that’s impacted and the type of seizure that occurs. Seizures are classified into two groups: generalized seizures that affect both sides of the brain and focal seizures, also called partial seizures, that only affect one area in the brain.

The Equality Act passed in 2010 recognizes most forms of epilepsy as a disability, even when a person’s seizures are controlled, or when a person does not consider themselves as “disabled”. Disability benefits are generally awarded to people with epilepsy because seizures can severely limit the number of tasks that a person can perform, as well as the type of work environment where they can be employed.

The SSA has a Blue Book of listings for medical conditions. Epilepsy is considered a neurological disorder that causes communication impairment, disorganization of motor function, or a combination of limitations that impact mental and physical function. The Blue Book has an extensive list of impairments caused by epilepsy.

When you file a claim for disability benefits, the SSA compares your medical condition with the information shown for epilepsy in the Blue Book. To determine eligibility for disability benefits for epilepsy, the SSA reviews both documented medical evidence and documented nonmedical evidence that you submit with your disability application.

The SSA has strict guidelines on medical conditions that get approved for Social Security disability benefits, and medical records are a major factor in claim approvals. The SSA requires medical evidence to support the following conditions:

  • Medical conditions must meet the SSA’s definition of a disability described in the SSA Blue Book Listings under Part A or Part B
  • Medical conditions must have lasted or be expected to last for at least one year or result in death
  • Medical conditions must prevent a person from working or engaging in any substantial gainful activity (SGA)
  • Medical conditions must prevent a person from performing previous job duties
  •  Medical conditions must prevent other job duties or other types of work

If Illinois, if you have epilepsy and can answer yes to the following questions, it’s likely that you will qualify for Social Security disability benefits:

  1. Do you suffer from generalized seizures, tonic-clonic seizures, focal seizures, or dyscognitive seizures?
  2. Do you experience multiple seizures within a 24-hour period?
  3. Do you lose consciousness or have muscle spasms and/or body stiffness during an epileptic episode?
  4. Do you take prescription medications to manage your epilepsy?
  5. Do your medications impact your ability to function at home or perform work tasks?
  6. Do you need assistance with daily activities?

Because approval of benefits in Illinois can be complex, it’s helpful to work with Chicago Social Security disability attorneys who have knowledge and experience with disability claims filed within the state.