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Social Security Disability and the Sleep Disorder Narcolepsy

Posted by Louis B. Lusk | May 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Social Security Disability and the Sleep Disorder Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by periods of extreme daytime sleepiness. People who have narcolepsy typically have trouble sleeping at night. Some people who have narcolepsy fall asleep suddenly, even while they're talking, eating or engaging in other activities. Most people are in the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep phase when they fall asleep and then move into the rapid eye movement (REM) phase after about 90 minutes. During the REM sleep phase, dreaming occurs and your muscles go limp, so you don't act out your dreams. People who have narcolepsy fall into REM sleep quickly and have vivid dreams. They often have a hard time functioning at work, school, and other social situations because they feel extremely tired all the time. Narcolepsy sufferers may also experience a condition known as cataplexy, which is characterized by a sudden loss of muscle tone while you're awake. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include hallucinations and sleep paralysis, which prevents you from moving or speaking while waking up and sometimes while falling asleep. Narcolepsy is a rare condition that is not one of the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) listed impairments. Since narcolepsy isn't a listed condition, the SSA will look at whether your symptoms are “equal to” a different condition that is listed. In some cases, the SSA has found that narcolepsy equals one of the listings for epilepsy. For example, if you have narcolepsy and suffer from frequent sleep attacks, your condition may be considered equal to the listing for non-convulsive epilepsy. In order to be considered equal to non-convulsive epilepsy, however, your narcolepsy must cause you to suffer from at least one episode per week despite the fact that you've taken the required medications for at least three months. Treatment for narcolepsy may include tricyclic antidepressants, amphetamine-based drugs, and behavioral adjustments. Gather medical, employment, and personal observations to support your claim. Make sure to provide the SSA with the following when you apply for disability benefits:

  • Statements from your treating doctor describing how long each sleep attack lasts and how often they occur
  • Statements from your treating doctor explaining whether you've followed all prescribed treatment
  • Results from tests you've undergone
  • Written statements from former co-workers and supervisors
The SSA doesn't see narcolepsy cases often, so it's important to provide as much information and evidence possible in order to educate disability examiners about narcolepsy and its debilitating effects. The SSA will look at all of the evidence in your file to determine your residual functional capacity (RFC), which dictates what type of work you're capable of doing and what your limitations are. If the SSA decides that, based on the severity of your narcolepsy symptoms, there is no job you are capable of performing, you will be eligible for disability benefits under a “medical vocational allowance.” Need Help Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits? If you have narcolepsy and need help applying for Social Security disability benefits, contact Georgia Social Security disability attorney Louis B. Lusk. Based in Atlanta, Louis B. Lusk and his team can help you determine whether or not you qualify for disability benefits, and if you do, assist you in applying for and winning the benefits to which you're entitled. Call (800) 883-7043 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free consultation.

About the Author

Louis B. Lusk

About Louis B. Lusk – Disability Attorney Attorney Louis B. Lusk has helped thousands of disabled individuals recover Social Security disability and SSI disability benefits.  He is an active member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimant's Representatives (NOSSCR), an organizat...


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If you have been turned down for Social Security disability call me at 1 (800) 407-1516. I look forward to hearing from you.