Narcolepsy and Social Security Disability

Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder resulting in an irresistible urge to sleep and frequent daytime “sleep attacks.” This disorder is viewed as a neurological problem rather than a mental illness or something caused by anxiety. Little is known about the exact cause of the condition. Some researchers believe that the brain producing a reduced amount of a certain protein is the likely cause. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this condition. Treatment is geared toward either reducing or controlling the symptoms.

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Narcolepsy may be accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms: periods of extreme drowsiness (every 3 to 4 hours during the day), dream like hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle tone while awake resulting in an inability to move). Sleep periods can range from a few seconds to a half an hour.

Without question, narcolepsy can form the basis of an award of Social Security Disability benefits. This particular disease is not found in the Listings of Impairments. As a consequence, it is important for a person representing a disability claimant to know how SSA looks at this disease. First, narcolepsy is not a listed impairment. SSA considers the closest listing to equate with narcolepsy to be Listing 11.03, Epilepsy-Minor motor seizures. Second, SSA examiners evaluate narcolepsy after a period of 3 months of prescribed treatment. Therefore consistent treatment records are a must. Third, as in all disability cases, it is vital to provide as much medical evidence that is available including: physician treatment notes, results of electroencephalogram (EEG), a list of the medications used and their responses, a detailed description of the narcoleptic attack along with other events that sometime accompany a narcoleptic attack (such as cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations or sleep paralysis).

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