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Chances are, if your grandmother or grandfather was mentally ill, the family probably had that person committed to a mental hospital. Back then, most scientists and medical practitioners believed that institutionalization was the best option either as a temporary or permanent solution. Since societies in those days severely stigmatize the mentally ill, that conclusion probably wasn’t too far off base. Today, researchers know that such institutionalization usually does more harm than good. Additionally, although many people still stigmatize the mentally ill, society’s attitude is much better and much more understanding of mental illness/neurological impairment today than it was fifty or sixty years ago.

Most people with mental or neurological impairments are no danger to themselves or others. In fact, they usually work, pay taxes, take care of their families, and do pretty much everything else that most people do. However, some of these individuals need some additional help. That’s what Social Security Disability benefits are for. They help these individuals contribute to society in a meaningful way, which in the end is what is most important to the individual and those that love and care for them.

Unfortunately, the mental health stigma is quite strong in many state Disability Determination Services offices. There is essentially a presumption that financial benefits do not significantly help these disabled individuals. Moreover, since these determinations are rather subjective, they are difficult to establish at the DDS level and also at the appeal level. Because of these things, a Social Security Disability attorney from the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm is an essential partner in this process. Without legal representation, most applicants have little hope of overcoming these odds and obtaining the benefits they need and deserve. If you would like to know if you could be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, fill out Heermans FREE Disability Evaluation Form.

Section 11 Neurological Impairments

This portion of the Social Security “Blue Book” which lists presumptively disabling conditions, includes some specific conditions which are discussed below. It also includes some general rules for determining benefits eligibility.

To establish eligibility in specific cases, a disability lawyer must present medical and non-medical evidence. Compelling medical proof usually includes diagnostic test results. These results, and their interpretation, must be generally accepted in the scientific community. They must also be consistent with relevant clinical practices as the proper way to support the evaluation of the neurological impairment.


A brain injury or a genetic condition usually causes epilepsy, which is basically abnormal and excessive cellular activity which causes seizures. Epilepsy is not an umbrella term for a seizure disorder. Rather, it’s a specific kind of seizure disorder related to a specific brain malfunction. That means the applicant must have a specific diagnosis to qualify for disability benefits. Epilepsy may be disabling if the victim has at least:

  • One generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure per month for three consecutive months,
  • One dyscognitive (psychomotor or partial) seizure a week for three consecutive months,  
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures once every other month for at least four consecutive months, if the epilepsy significantly limits a physical function, or
  • Dyscognitive seizures once every two weeks for at least three consecutive months, if the epilepsy significantly limits a physical function.

The applicant’s epilepsy must be permanent or expected to last at least a year. Additionally, the applicant must be disabled according to the above discussion even though s/he has adhered to prescribed treatment, usually taking medication regularly, for at least three months.

Vascular Insult to the Brain (Stroke)

SSD benefits are available if an aphasia (language or speech disorder caused by brain damage) inhibits the applicant for at least three months after the stroke. This limitation is one of the most common sources of stroke SSD claims.

Benefits may be available if a disorganization of the motor function of two extremities limits balance or a similar function for at least three months, or if the applicant has significant problems interacting with others, concentrating, attending to personal hygiene matters, or thinking through simple problems for at least three months.

Parkinsonian Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy

The symptoms of Parkinsonian Syndrome mimic Parkinson’s Disease. The difference is that Parkinsonian Syndrome is an umbrella term for a number of mental disorders. Muscular, and drug-induced conditions. Cerebral palsy is a brain injury that’s usually caused by hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to birth trauma.

Coverage for these two conditions is a lot like coverage for strokes. But only the latter two avenues discussed above (disorganization of motor function or significant limitation of a physical function) are allowable.

Most other neurological conditions, like certain spinal cord diseases, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy use the same rules as well.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Prior to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, disability lawyers rarely handled these claims. But things are different now. Roughly 20 percent of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, not just 20 percent of the injured veterans, sustained a TBI overseas. Civilian and military contractors, along with other Americans who worked in Southwest Asia during these conflicts, came home with brain injuries at a similar rate.

The SSD qualifications for TBI benefits are different than the Veterans’ Administration requirements. TBI applicants can exhibit one of the following issues for at least three months:

  • Impairment of two extremities which limits the ability to balance while standing or walking, stand up from a seated position, or use the upper extremities, or
  • Persistent difficulties interacting with other people, managing personal issues (e.g. hygiene and appointments), concentrating on a specific task, or following instructions.

The VA’s disability rating system is a different criteria from the SSA program. Furthermore, the VA’s rating system is percentage based. The SSD system is all or nothing, while the VA disability is percentage. Furthermore, non-service members are obviously not entitled to any VA benefits.

Social morals and SSD/SSDI qualifications have certainly evolved since our grandparents were young and assistance for applying and being granted benefits has greatly improved with the help of attorneys representing applicants.  For more information in the greater Memphis Metro Area, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, contact Heermans Social Security Disability lawyers 24/7 at (901) 244-0057. More value added FREE information can be found in our online article library.


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