Parkinson’s Syndrome and Social Security Disability

April 2013 is national Parkinson’s Syndrome and Social Security Disability syndrome awareness month.  This degenerative neurological is often the basis for the award of social security disabiity benefits.  The disease is characterized by movement-related symptoms such as shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. Cognitive and behavioural problems may arise, as well as dementia, though more commonly occurring in the advanced stages of the disease.  The condition is more common in those over 50 years of age.  Public figures such as Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali have drawn needed attention to Parkinson’s Disease.  As a personal comment, my father-in-law suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.  I witnessed first-hand just how devasting this neurological condition can be.
parkinson awareness
 So how is a Parkinson’s Disease-based social security disability claim analyzed?  An early consideration by an Administrative Law Judge or other social security decision-maker is whether the claimant’s Parkinson’s Disease meets the criterion set out in the so-called “Listings” for particular impairments.   A listing is simply a set of criterion for a given disease that medical experts have agreed would be disabling.  Failing to find that the conditions for a listing are met does NOT mean that the claim will be denied: it just means social security must move on to consider other factors in the case.  It can be helpful to think of “meeting a listing” as a short-hand . Other symptoms include sensory, sleep and emotional problems. These are the neurological signs and symptoms needed to meet the listing for Parklinson:
  • Significant rigidity, bradykinesia, or tremor in two extremities, which, singly or in combination, result in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.
The conditions set out in the Parkinson’s Disease listing often represent a profound and advanced state.  With skilled medical care I do not often see social security disability claims based upon Parkinson’s Disease that meet the listing.
In such cases, it takes skilled analysis by an experienced social security disablity attorney of the functional limitations of the claimant’s Parkinson’s Disease symptoms, as well as vocational factors such as age, past relevant work, and ability to do prior or orther work.


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