Applying for Disability Benefits After a Stroke

A stroke recently struck 53-year-old U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R.–Ill.). Many have mentioned that strokes do not usually occur in people as young as Kirk.

According to a recent Associated Press article on strokes, up to 25% of strokes nationally occur in people younger than 65 years old. However, in Louisiana and other southeastern states, the figure is much worse. For example, in North Carolina, the article reports one facility measured 45% of strokes in young and middle-aged individuals.

While strokes are devastating at any age, when a younger or middle-aged person is affected with a stroke there is more chance of survival according to the article. But the recovery may take a long time. And you may experience loss of certain functionality.

As a result, you may need to apply for Social Security disability benefits for stroke. The residual effects of stroke often involve memory difficulties and problems with motor coordination and function, and for this reason, a stroke victim may have difficulty performing an occupation.

There are a few things to note when applying for disability benefits related to a stroke. Initial claims for disability benefits usually take several months before a decision is reached. However, stroke cases can take even longer because the evaluation is often delayed over a longer period of time to see if there is any improvement. The residual effects of a stroke can be nearly impossible to measure in the short time following a stroke. Doctors simply do not know enough to allow for a reliable projection as to how a stroke victim may recover from a stroke.

Your recovery can be influenced by factors such as age and the existence of other medical conditions and risk factors. Also, not all individuals will recover at the same rate. The Social Security Administration (SSA) needs to see how your recovery progresses before making a determination on your claim.

The SSA does have a listing for strokes. It is titled 11.04, vascular insult to the brain. The listing for stroke is fairly short and requires the following:

  • Stroke residuals will be evaluated at least 3 months following a stroke (meaning a case may be deferred).
  • To be approved on the basis of the stroke listing, a claimant must demonstrate:
    • A. Ineffective speech or communication that results from sensory or motor aphasia (the loss of ability to speak or comprehend due to brain illness or injury) OR
    • B. Persistent, significant motor function disorganization in two extremities (this could be two legs, two arms, or an arm and a leg) that results in a sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or in gait and station.

These effects, if present, should be described in your medical records by your treating provider. It is important to note, that they must exist at least three months following the stroke and be expected to last at least 12 months total.

Even if your condition does not rise to the listing level, you may still be found disabled if the limitations resulting from the stroke prevent you from performing your past relevant work and other work available in the national economy. In such cases, you should consult with a disability attorney for help with proving your limitations.

As with any impairment, your level of impairment (or residual functional capacity, or RFC) will be determined by a review of your medical records, including treatment notes, admission and discharge summaries, lab and imaging studies, and also supporting statements from one’s treating physician(s). It is important to get these records into SSA as soon as possible for a complete evaluation of your disability claim.

If you have questions about your claim, contact disability attorney Loyd Bourgeois at 985-240-9773 for a free consultation.

Loyd J. Bourgeois
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Disability and Personal Injury Attorney
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