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Understanding Neuropathy and Its Impact on SSDI Benefits

What To Know

  • The symptoms of neuropathy depend on the type and extent of nerve damage and can range from numbness, tingling, or pricking sensations, sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness, particularly in the extremities, to more debilitating symptoms like burning pain (especially at night) or organ or gland dysfunction.
  • It can affect any nerve in the body, leading to a range of symptoms depending on the nerve affected.

Neuropathy, a nerve disorder that can significantly limit an individual’s physical abilities, often renders individuals unable to work, making Social Security Disability Insurance benefits essential for financial stability.

Understanding the nature of neuropathy, its influence on everyday life, and its implications for SSDI eligibility is paramount for patients looking to secure these benefits. This article aims to elucidate how your experience with neuropathy can potentially strengthen your SSDI application process.

Understanding Neuropathy

Neuropathy, also known as peripheral neuropathy, is a term that describes a variety of conditions caused by damage to the peripheral nervous system – the vast communication network that transmits information between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and every other part of the body.

Types of Neuropathy

There are several types of neuropathy, each associated with different causes and with its own set of symptoms:

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: The most common type of neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy primarily affects the feet and hands, leading to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or burning sensation.
  • Proximal Neuropathy: This form affects the hips, buttocks, or thighs and is characterized by pain in these areas as well as potential weakness in the legs.
  • Autonomic Neuropathy: Autonomic neuropathy affects the autonomic nerves that control internal body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, and digestion. This can lead to a multitude of issues including abnormal heart rate, difficulties with digestion, and issues regulating body temperature.
  • Focal Neuropathy: Focal neuropathy targets a specific nerve or group of nerves, causing sudden weakness or pain. It can affect any nerve in the body, leading to a range of symptoms depending on the nerve affected.

Causes of Neuropathy

Neuropathy can be caused by a variety of factors. The most common cause is diabetes, especially in people who have had the disease for several years and have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels.

Other causes may include certain infections, autoimmune diseases, exposure to toxins, alcohol abuse, nutrient deficiencies, and some types of cancer. In some cases, the cause of neuropathy is unknown, a condition known as idiopathic neuropathy.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of neuropathy depend on the type and extent of nerve damage and can range from numbness, tingling, or pricking sensations, sensitivity to touch, or muscle weakness, particularly in the extremities, to more debilitating symptoms like burning pain (especially at night) or organ or gland dysfunction.


Diagnosing neuropathy involves a complete physical examination and neurological evaluation. This might involve blood tests, nerve function tests, and imaging tests to identify the cause and location of the nerve damage. In some cases, a nerve biopsy may be necessary.

Treatment and Management of Neuropathy

Treatment of neuropathy aims to manage symptoms and treat the underlying cause to prevent further nerve damage. Depending on the cause, treatment may involve managing a related disease (such as diabetes), lifestyle changes (such as maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and limiting alcohol intake), medication for pain management, or physical therapy.


It’s important to note that while treatment can help manage the condition, neuropathy often leads to long-term disability.


In some severe cases, more invasive treatment options such as surgeries or nerve stimulation therapies might be necessary. Furthermore, psychological support and counselling are integral components of the treatment plan as they help patients cope with the chronic pain and lifestyle changes associated with neuropathy.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a U.S. federal program managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA), provides income to individuals unable to work due to disability. Funded through payroll taxes, it’s aimed at covering basic needs and living expenses of beneficiaries, and in certain cases, their families.

Qualification for SSDI benefits requires adequate work credits and a disability meeting the SSA’s criteria, substantially hindering work capability for at least 12 months or expected to be fatal. The eligibility process involves a five-step evaluation of the applicant’s work status, condition severity, disability listing, and ability to perform past or other work.

The application process includes submitting an application detailing medical condition, work history, and finances. Once submitted, it undergoes a non-medical review before a medical evaluation by the Disability Determination Services office. Additional information or a medical examination may be requested.

The applicant receives an approval or denial letter from the SSA post-decision, with a right to appeal in case of denial.

Impact of Neuropathy on SSDI Benefits

Neuropathy can significantly impact SSDI benefits as it can inhibit an individual’s ability to work, a key factor for SSDI eligibility. Neuropathy is listed as a qualifying condition in the SSA’s Blue Book under Neurological disorders, specifically peripheral neuropathies.

To qualify for SSDI with peripheral neuropathy, medical records must show disorganization of motor function in two extremities, severely interfering with walking or hand use.

Strong medical evidence, including medical history, physical examinations, neurophysiological and imaging test results, and healthcare provider statements, is crucial to demonstrate the impact of neuropathy on work capability.

Neuropathy can restrict standing, walking, carrying objects, manipulating small objects, and sitting for prolonged periods. The SSA also considers your residual functional capacity (RFC) – your remaining abilities despite your condition. If you can perform less physically demanding work, you may not qualify for SSDI.

Tips for Neuropathy Patients Applying for SSDI

  • Understand the SSA’s Definition of Disability: Understand that the SSA’s definition of disability may differ from your doctor’s. The SSA requires that the disability is expected to last at least 12 months or result in death and prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity.
  • Gather Comprehensive Medical Evidence: Accumulate extensive medical documentation supporting your diagnosis and the impact of neuropathy on your ability to work. This includes medical records, lab tests, physician’s notes, and letters detailing the severity of your condition and its impact on your daily activities.
  • Know the Blue Book Criteria: Neuropathy is listed under Neurological disorders in the SSA’s Blue Book. To be eligible for benefits, medical records should document disorganization of motor function in two extremities, impacting your movement or gait.
  • Prepare a Detailed RFC Assessment: Work with your physician to prepare a detailed Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment, showing what you can still do despite your condition.
  • Be Consistent: Ensure all information is consistent across medical records, your SSDI application, and any testimony you provide. Any discrepancies could lead to your claim being denied.
  • Follow Medical Treatment and Advice: Regularly following prescribed treatments and medical advice not only helps manage your condition, but non-compliance can be a reason for denial of benefits.
  • Seek Legal Counsel: Consider consulting with a disability lawyer or advocate. They understand the SSDI application process and can guide you, increasing your chances of a successful application.
  • Be Patient and Persistent: The SSDI application process can be long and challenging, often requiring appeals. Patience and persistence are key to navigating this process successfully.

In conclusion, neuropathy, a debilitating condition that can drastically hinder an individual’s ability to work, plays a significant role in determining SSDI benefits. Navigating the SSDI application process, understanding the impact of neuropathy on SSDI eligibility, and preparing a robust claim can be challenging.

However, armed with accurate knowledge about the disease and the SSDI process, neuropathy patients can significantly improve their chances of successfully claiming their deserved benefits. With patience, persistence, comprehensive medical documentation, and potentially the assistance of legal counsel, applicants can effectively advocate for the support they need to manage their condition.

Medical Device News Magazine
Medical Device News Magazine provides breaking medical device / biotechnology news. Our subscribers include medical specialists, device industry executives, investors, and other allied health professionals, as well as patients who are interested in researching various medical devices. We hope you find value in our easy-to-read publication and its overall objectives! Medical Device News Magazine is a division of PTM Healthcare Marketing, Inc. Pauline T. Mayer is the managing editor.


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