Parkinson’s Disease and SSDI Parkinson’s disease, or PD, is an incurable, progressive neurological disease that primarily affects movement. Although tremors are the most well-known symptom, the disease affects everyone differently and can turn your life upside down. There is no cure, but there are medications that can help to control some of the symptoms. While no one knows the specific triggers of Parkinson’s, it is known that it causes a loss of nerve cells, or neurons, in various parts of the brain. Some of the dying neurons produce dopamine, which is a chemical that sends messages to the area of the brain that controls movement, emotional response, and the ability to experience pleasure and pain. As Parkinson’s advances, the dopamine produced in the brain decreases, which leaves you with little to no ability to control normal body movement. The four main motor symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors of the hands, arms, legs, or jaw; stiff or rigid muscles typically in the limbs and trunk; reduced speed of movement, and balance. Other common symptoms include pain, dementia or confusion, fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, constipation, cognitive changes, fear or anxiety, speech and urinary problems. Symptoms vary from person to person and can become progressively worse as the disease advances. Eventually, many of these symptoms make it impossible to hold a job. A person diagnosed with Parkinson’s may be entitled to a number of disability programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). A key to applying for SSDI benefits is to maintain all relevant paperwork that you have received from employers, insurance agents, government agencies and advocates working on your behalf. It’s also important to keep copies of everything you submit when applying for disability programs. SSDI is geared to individuals under the age of 65 who have worked and paid FICA taxes. To qualify, someone with Parkinson’s must be unable to perform any job and the disease must be expected to last continuously for at least 12 months, or result in death. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a five-step process to determine if a PD patient qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The process will: 1. Determine if you are engaged in substantial gainful activity according to the SSA definition. Earning more than $1,010/month (in 2012) while employed is enough to disqualify you from receiving SSDI benefits. 2. Determine if the PD symptoms are severe enough to limit your ability to perform basic work activities such as walking, standing, lifting, seeing, hearing, communicating and understanding.
3. Determine if you have significant rigidity, bradykinesia, or tremor in two extremities resulting in a disturbance of gross or dexterous movements, or gait and station. 4. Investigate your ability, despite the diagnosis, to perform work you have done in the past. If it is found that you can perform past work, the benefits will be denied. If it is found you cannot perform previous work, the process continues to the final phase. 5. Evaluate your age, education, work experience and mental/physical condition to determine if other work can be performed. The SSA uses medical-vocational rules, based on age, to determine Parkinsonâ€™s disease disability.