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Many people ask this question at this time of year. The “cold weather makes my bones ache” mantra is not just an old wives’ tale. There is a documented connection between cold weather and chronic pain. Cold weather usually leads to inactivity, like burrowing under blankets. That inactivity often adversely affects muscles and joints. The temperature itself, and not just our reactions to it, contributes to the situation. Falling mercury levels decrease joint elasticity. 

A deteriorating health condition could support a renewed disability petition. If a long term disability attorney previously reviewed your case and determined you were ineligible for SSDI, when the temperature falls, it might be a good time to revisit that application. The outcome might be different this time. 

That being said, a deteriorating health condition does not automatically increase your disability payments. VA disability payments are usually based on the extent of disability, such as 10 percent disabled, 100 percent disabled, or anything in between. But SSDI payments are prior income-based and not health-based. You cannot be more or less disabled. You either are or you aren’t.

If you refile your petition in the greater Mid-South area, an effective Social Security disability lawyer near me from the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm is absolutely essential. Otherwise, the Claims Examiner might look at your file and adopt a “weren’t you just in here last year” stance. That usually means a prompt claim denial.

Common Worsening Health Conditions

As a reminder, the Social Security Administration defines a “disability” as a condition which prevents most kinds of employment and is either expected to last at least twelve months or result in death.

Some disabilities are fixed. Cerebral palsy (CP) or a serious birth defect, is a good example. CP’s effects vary widely, usually depending on the length of hypoxia, or the amount of time the brain was oxygen-deprived during delivery. Some CP victims only need help with fine motor skills, such as cutting paper in kindergarten. Other CP victims are essentially prisoners inside their own bodies.

Regardless of the effects, CP is usually not degenerative. It never gets worse. It usually never gets better either. But that’s the subject of another blog.

Most disabilities are variable. A few people have good days and bad days, or even good years and bad years. Typically, however, once a condition begins deteriorating, the condition steadily gets worse and worse.

Arthritis

This condition is probably the most common degenerative disability. It is not just disabling for people who work with their hands or move around a lot during the day. Arthritis also adversely affects white-collar professionals. For example, hand/finger arthritis often makes it difficult for people to type, use a touchpad, or hold a pen or phone. It might also make it difficult to hold a conversation. Joint pain usually causes fatigue.

Mild arthritis is usually not disabling. Analgesic pain relievers often provide at least a couple of hours of relief. Additionally, some workplace accommodations might be available under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Moderate or severe arthritis, however, is a much different story. The accommodations necessary often go beyond the “reasonable” ones mandated by the ADA. And, some arthritis patients go downhill with a health crisis very quickly. February’s medical examination might be outdated by December of the same year yet these changes support a new disability petition.

Parkinson’s Disease/Essential Tremor

These two conditions have a lot in common, and they are both degenerative. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) attacks the central nervous system. Initial symptoms include foot-shuffling and some other idiosyncrasies which are almost unnoticeable. Advanced symptoms include muscle rigidity, severe tremors, and speech problems. These symptoms are definitely noticeable and potentially debilitating.

Essential Tremor (ET) is a simple nerve disease. The tremors almost always affect the upper body, mostly the hands, arms, and larynx. ET is initially not disabling, but given these symptoms, that situation changes quickly.

As mentioned above, cold weather decreases joint elasticity. This effect might be devastating to people with ET and PD.

Now is a good time to mention that the SSA does not automatically review cases to determine eligibility for higher benefits. However, the SSA often automatically reviews claims to determine if benefits should be cut off. If a new medicine hits the market or there is another breakthrough therapy, disabilities can often improve with new therapies. But otherwise, they might get worse, but they almost never get better by themselves.

On a related note, weather-related disability changes are often reversed in the spring. If arthritis or another degenerative condition gets worse in December, it might get better in May. So, a periodic review could potentially reverse the earlier favorable decision.

The victim could go back to the SSA again the next December, where the cycle would probably repeat. Or, an attorney with Heermans Law Firm could negotiate a more permanent solution with the SSA, such as a more modest yet permanent increase.

Degenerative Disk Disease

This condition is obviously degenerative. Disks, which are like shock absorbing pads in the spine, almost always degenerate as we age. But not everyone experiences the pain associated with DDD. Common causes include a genetic predisposition, a cracked spine, and chronic dehydration. Initial DDD symptoms include pain, mostly when bending or flexing the spine. Advanced symptoms include numbness and tingling. These symptoms indicate that DDD is affecting the nerves in the spine.

Although this condition is degenerative, worsening symptoms often do not support successful SSDI reconsiderations. There are a number of treatments available, from over-the-counter pain relievers to steroid injections to back surgery. These available treatments often mean that DDD does not meet the aforementioned SSA “disability” listing definition. However, any condition can be disabling if it restricts a claimant from working full-time.

Form more information about disability reviews, contact Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm with our online contact form or call (901) 244-0057.