Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits for Cognitive Impairment?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with cognitive impairment to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
- (1) Your medical condition doesn’t meet the requirements of or is the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
- (2) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
- (3) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of cognitive impairment are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with cognitive impairment. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing, or that
- Your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Is A Cognitive Impairment?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “cognitive impairment” as when a “person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating or making decisions that affect their everyday life.”
Cognitive impairment ranges from mild to moderate, severe and profound.
What Are The Symptoms of Cognitive Impairment?
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage of impairment that can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment. It’s like your memory and cognitive abilities have “slipped.” MCI generally is not severe enough to interfere with the activities of daily living but can interfere with your ability to perform any occupation that has high cognitive abilities.
Moderate cognitive impairment involves difficulty with complex communication, difficulty in social situations and problems with social cues and judgments.
Only 3 to 4% of those with cognitive impairment fall into the severe level and require daily supervision and assistance with activities of daily living.
When Your Cognitive Impairment Meets A Listing
Some forms of cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment as a result of a brain injury, are included in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments” under Organic Mental Disorders. If you meet or have the equivalent of a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step sequential evaluation.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the applicable Listing for your cognitive impairment to be considered disabling. SSA will review your medical records and look for:
- A specific diagnosis of cognitive impairment,
- A history of your symptoms,
- Findings on physical examination that are consistent with the cognitive impairment or the underlying medical condition causing the impairment, and
- Results of testing, including neuropsychiatric testing.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, SSA then will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your Cognitive Impairment Makes It Impossible to Work
If your underlying medical condition doesn’t meet or equal a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your cognitive impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity For Cognitive Impairment
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stages of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed cognitive impairment RFC forms that will explain:
- What trouble you have with language and how effective your speech or communication is,
- Whether there is any disruption of the use of your arms or legs that interferes with walking and/or the use of fingers, hands, and arms,
- Any changes in your cognitive abilities,
- Any disorientation, personality changes, or mood changes that limit your daily activities, social functioning or ability to concentrate,
- Any reduction in your IQ,
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have psychological problems that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a brain injury, Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment RFC form. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve?
Regardless of the cause, cognitive impairment can interfere not only with your daily activities but with your ability to work. If you no longer can work or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to:
- Help you file your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits.
- Appeal a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration.
- File an Application for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Cognitive dysfunction is present in a number of medical conditions, including tinnitis, hearing loss, headaches and vertigo.
Cognitive dysfunction isn’t evidence of a disability but it’s an important factor to consider in determining the disability. Courts require that long term disability carriers give attention to subjective complaints, assign weight to those subjective complaints or provide specific reasons for its decisions to discount those subjective complaints.
Carriers simply can’t point to a lack of objective evidence in denying a claim. The carrier has to identify any objective findings and consider the cognitive symptoms that would reasonably be expected to see as a result of the medical condition. Carriers can’t just rely on the lack of objective evidence to deny a claim unless there is a subjective, self-reported symptoms and limitations clause in the policy.
What You Should Do If You Have Cognitive Dysfunction
If you’re filing a long term disability claim as a result of cognitive dysfunction, you should obtain a copy of your medical records and review those records closely. Will your physician document the medical evidence for your cognitive dysfunction or clinical correlation between the complaints and your diagnosis? Has your physician performed any objective testing? Has your physician explained how your cognitive difficulties are manifestations of the symptoms of your medical condition? If not, you may claim may be denied right out of the box because of the lack of medical evidence that supports your cognitive dysfunction.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today and get the Social Security Disability benefits you deserve because of cognitive impairment! Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.