The Social Security Administration provides disability benefits for those Americans who have become too disabled to work due to a serious injury or medical condition. In order to qualify for these benefits, an applicant has to be able to prove the symptoms of their impairment (and/or its treatment) are so severe that they are unable to do work of any kind. For some conditions, it’s a fairly straightforward process to get approved for benefits. For others, such as Lyme disease, it can be more of a challenge.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the bite of a deer tick. The infection can attack various parts of the body, including the joints, nerves, and heart.
Symptoms of Lyme disease can range in severity from mild to debilitating. Early symptoms can include:
- Erythema migrans rash
- Joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Doxycycline, Ceftriaxone and Amoxicillin are some of the antibiotics used to treat Lyme Disease.
There are three types of Lyme disease:
- Neurological Lyme disease
- Lyme arthritis
- Lyme carditis
Neurological Lyme disease occurs when the Lyme disease bacteria begin to affect the function of the peripheral and central nervous systems. Symptoms depend on which system is affected. Facial palsy (droop) can occur when the cranial nerves have been infected. Numbness, tingling, “shooting” pain, or weakness in the arms or legs, are all symptoms of a Lyme disease peripheral nerve infection.
Lyme meningitis affects the central nervous system. Symptoms can include fever, headache, sensitivity to light, and stiff neck.
Lyme arthritis occurs when Lyme disease bacteria infect joint tissue, causing pain and inflammation. The knees are affected most often, but other large joints, such as the shoulder, ankle, elbow, jaw, wrist, and hip, can be affected as well. If left untreated, the Lyme disease infection can result in permanent joint damage.
Lyme disease bacteria can enter the tissues of the heart, causing a condition called Lyme carditis. In Lyme carditis, the bacteria interfere with the electrical signals that coordinate the beating of the heart’s upper and lower chambers. Symptoms of Lyme carditis include light-headedness, fainting, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or chest pain.
Why Is it Difficult to Get Social Security Benefits for Lyme Disease?
In most instances, the symptoms of Lyme disease can be successfully resolved through antibiotics and other medications. Unfortunately, the early symptoms of Lyme disease match those of other, less serious conditions. This can lead to a delay in treatment. Left untreated, a Lyme disease infection can cause permanent damage to the tissues of the heart, joints and nervous system. The damage may become so severe that an individual is left disabled and can’t work.
One of the big problems obtaining disability benefits through the Social Security Administration for Lyme disease is that it doesn’t have a specific listing in the SSA’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is a document that contains a listing of disabling medical conditions and the criteria an individual needs to meet in order to qualify for disability benefits.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be approved for disability benefits. However, you’ll have to be able to demonstrate that the disabling symptoms of your Lyme disease match those of another listing. Depending on the type and severity of your advanced Lyme disease symptoms, you may qualify under:
- Section 1.00 (Musculoskeletal System): If your Lyme disease-related joint damage has significantly limited your ability to walk or use your arms.
- Section 4.00 (Cardiovascular System): If Lyme carditis has caused damage to your heart.
- Section 14.09 (Inflammatory Arthritis): If Lyme arthritis has caused permanent, disabling damage to your joints.
The SSA will evaluate the effects of your impairments, as well as your remaining abilities, using their Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) test. The RFC will determine if your impairments prevent you from being able to work. You will only be approved for benefits if the SSA finds that you are unable to perform work of any kind due to the symptoms of your Lyme disease.
Marc Whitehead & Associates Are Dedicated to Getting You the Disability Benefits You Deserve
Has your claim for Social Security disability benefits for Lyme disease or other conditions been denied by the Social Security Administration? If so, Marc Whitehead & Associates may be able to help. In a lot of instances, a claim is denied not because the applicant doesn’t deserve the benefits, but simply because they failed to provide the necessary information required to approve it.
We can guide you through the appeals process, working closely with you and your healthcare providers to ensure the SSA gets everything they need to make a favorable decision in your case. Contact the Houston social security disability attorneys at Marc Whitehead & Associates to discuss your Social Security disability claim.