Parkinson Social Security Disability Eligibility Changed Proposed

The Social Security Administration has proposed changes to the “Listing” for Parkinson’s Disease. Examining whether the criteria of a Listing for a given condition are met is a part of the 5-step sequential evaluation process utilized in determining disability in Texas and throughout the nation. Lay persons often incorrectly believe that failure to meet the criteria of a Listing means disability will not be awarded. Application of the Listing criteria to a social security disability application is, however, not the last step in the sequential evaluation process. If the social security administration determines that the criteria of a Listing are met, then benefits are awarded. If, however, the criteria of the listing are not met, the adjudicator moves on to the next step in the disability determination process.

parkinson michael j fox

The Listings are however an important basis for a social security disability benefits approval, and the proposed changes to the Listing for Parkinson’s Disease must be carefully considered.  The current listing for Parkinson’s Disease is very simple:

“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 proposed new Listing for Parkinson’s Disease is much more complicated:

Parkinsonian syndrome,characterized by A or B despite adherence to prescribed treatment for at least 3 consecutive months (see 11.00C):

A. Disorganization of motor function (see 11.00D1), resulting in extreme limitation (see 11.00D2) in the ability to stand up, balance, walk, or perform fine and gross motor movements.


B. Marked limitation (see 11.00G2) in physical functioning (see 11.00G3a), and in one of the following:

  1. Activities of daily living (see 11.00G3b); or
  2. Social functioning (see 11.00G3c); or
  3. Completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace (see 11.00G3d)”

While there is a lot of language, and references to term definitions in other parts of the social security disability regulations, the key feature of the proposed new Listing is the criteria under B, which is all new. The criteria under A mirrors the current listing and centers on motor function, while new criteria B focuses on functional limitations caused by Parkinson’s Disease. I have been critical of the old Listing for a long time because it exclusively requires profound motor skill deficits that represent only the most extreme Parkinson’s cases; so the addition of functional limitations to the Listing is a welcome change. The Parkinson’s Action Network agrees that these changes are “steps in the right direction”, though they have expressed concern that the Listing does not adequately address the wide variability of physical and functional symptoms commonly found in Parkinson’s Disease.

Comments from the public are due by Monday. Generally, proposed changes to social security regulations are made without change in response to public comment, so we can expect to soon see a new Parkinson’s Disease Listing.

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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