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Can You get Disability Benefits for Seizures?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
July 28, 2023  ·  5 min read
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See if you qualify

Seizures, whether experienced on their own or as a symptom of another condition, can qualify you to receive disability benefits. Of workers who were awarded Social Security benefits in 2021, 9.4% qualified due to a disease of the nervous system or sense organs, which is how seizures are generally classified by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

For those trying to determine if you can get disability for your seizures, this article will walk you through how the SSA defines seizures, which criteria you'll need to meet to receive benefits for your seizures, and what steps you can take next.


Are seizures a disability?

Seizures are considered a disability by the SSA. The seizures you experience may also be symptoms of another qualifying disability, such as epilepsy. Either way, the key to getting disability for seizures is that your condition prevents you from being able to work.

How the SSA defines seizures

Seizures are not listed on their own as a Blue Book condition, but they are listed as a symptom of conditions such as epilepsy and neurological conditions. The Blue Book does also discuss some types of seizures and how it evaluates them. Generally, the SSA criteria for qualifying with neurological conditions applies to seizures.

A seizure is defined as a burst of electrical activity in the brain that is sudden and uncontrolled in nature. If they are recurring, they are referred to as epilepsy. The intensity and duration of seizures can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

  • Temporary confusion

  • Staring off into space

  • Involuntary jerking or stiffness in the body and/or limbs

  • Change in awareness or full loss of consciousness

  • Shifts in cognition or emotions, such as unusual thoughts

Common types of seizures

Two major types of seizures exist, under which there are further subcategories of seizures:

Generalized seizures: This type of seizure affects both sides of the brain. The severity varies by person. Types of generalized onset seizures can include:

  • Absence seizures (petit mal seizures)

  • Myoclonic seizures

  • Tonic and atonic Seizures

  • Tonic, clonic, and tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures

Focal seizures: Also called partial seizures, this type of seizure only affects one area of the brain. Focal seizures may or may not involve a loss of consciousness, and symptoms can either be mild or severe. Types of focal seizures include:

  • Simple focal seizures

  • Complex focal seizures

  • Secondary generalized seizures

For a full rundown on what can qualify you for Social Security benefits, reference our main guide on conditions.

Can you get disability for seizures?

It’s possible to receive Social Security disability benefits for seizures if they’re severe enough to prevent you from working despite treatment and management. That said, securing benefits isn't an easy process — the SSA outlines strict criteria you'll have to meet to get benefits, and the application process can take months or years

It's generally easier to get benefits if you apply with another qualifying condition. So if your seizures are related to another condition you have, or you have another qualifying condition in addition to seizures, you should include that in your application.

Qualifying conditions with seizures as a common condition may include:


Criteria for getting disability with seizures

When applying, you'll need to provide medical records documenting the frequency, type, and symptoms of seizures that you experience as well as the treatment you've received for your seizures. You'll need to demonstrate that you're still experiencing seizures at a rate that's disruptive to your ability to work even though you're receiving treatment.

The SSA has specific requirements regarding the frequency of seizures, which vary depending on the type of seizures a person experiences:

For tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures

Seizures must occur at least once a month for three consecutive months despite treatment.

OR

Seizures must occur at least once every two months for four consecutive months with marked limitation in any of following areas:

  • Physical functioning

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information

  • Interacting with others

  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining a steady work pace

  • Adapting or managing yourself

With a marked limitation, your ability to function is seriously limited but you can handle it on your own.

For partial seizures

Seizures must occur at least once a week for three consecutive months, despite treatment.

OR

Seizures must occur at least once every two weeks for four consecutive months with marked limitation in any of the following:

  • Physical functioning

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information

  • Interacting with others

  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining a steady work pace

  • Adapting or managing yourself

Again, a marked limitation means your ability is seriously limited but you can still handle it on your own.

Questions to ask yourself before applying

To help you determine if your disability qualifies, here are some questions to ask yourself. If your answers are mostly 'yes,' then it's more likely your condition will qualify.

  • Are you being treated with medication for your seizures and yet they continue to occur without improvement?

  • Do you see a neurologist for your seizures, and have you discussed what type of seizures you have and what symptoms you experience?

  • If you have grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizures, have they occurred at least once a month for three consecutive months? Or have your seizures occurred at least once every two months for four consecutive months accompanied by marked limitations in certain areas?

  • If you have partial seizures, have they occurred at least once a week for three consecutive weeks, despite treatment? Or have your seizures occurred at least once every two weeks for four consecutive months accompanied by marked limitations in certain areas?


My seizures meet the criteria. Now what?

If your seizures clearly meet the criteria to qualify, the next step is to apply for disability benefits. The application process will likely be long, so it's best to get started as soon as you can.

If you remain uncertain about whether you should move forward with applying for disability benefits, here is some advice that can help you determine how to proceed:

Apply now if:

Consider waiting and applying later if:

  • Your symptoms are moderate, or improve with treatment.

  • You haven't stopped working, even if you may need to in the future.

Probably don’t apply if:

For further guidance — and to save yourself some time — consider taking Atticus’ disability benefits quiz. It will give you a quick look at whether you could qualify.

A member of our team will also get in touch if it looks like you'll qualify to learn more and match you with a qualified disability lawyer. Getting matched costs nothing, it's entirely up to you whether you want to work with a lawyer, and you won't need to pay the lawyer unless you win benefits.


What type of benefits should I apply for?

There are two government programs that offer support to individuals who are unable to work due to a medical condition: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Both programs include monthly payments and health insurance — Medicare for SSDI and Medicaid for SSI.

SSDI is for workers who have paid taxes for years, including at least five out of the last 10 years. SSI, on the other hand, is for individuals who have not worked much (if at all) and have a low income (about $900 or less per month) without many savings or other assets.

You can also apply for both programs using the same application. Learn more about the differences between SSDI and SSI.


How much is a disability check for seizures?

The average amount that individuals suffering from diseases of the nervous system and sense organs receive each month is $1,342.17. That's just the average though. With SSDI, you could receive up to $3,822 per month in 2024. SSI has a maximum of $943 per month in 2024.

These maximums apply regardless of which condition you have specifically or how many conditions you end up using to qualify for Social Security benefits. Further, how much people make on SSDI and SSI depends on their work and income history for SSDI or their other sources of income for SSI. If you're curious, here's a closer look at how SSI is calculated.


What if my seizures don't meet the criteria?

After reviewing the criteria outlined in this article, you may have come to the conclusion that your seizures don't meet the requirements laid out by the SSA. It is still an option to apply for disability benefits, but remember that you'll need to prove through medical records that you're unable to work because of your seizures.

Regardless of your situation, it's common to get turned down the first time you apply for disability benefits. Only about 20% of applicants receive benefits on their initial attempt. Persistence pays off though.You can appeal the decision and the chances of winning an appeal are higher than getting approved on your first application attempt.

In the meantime, Atticus has compiled resources for people with disabilities. These can come in handy if you find yourself in need of financial, housing, or legal assistance amid the application process.

Many conditions are eligible for disability benefits. See what you qualify for instantly.

Other conditions that can qualify for disability:

Alzheimer's

Anemia

Anxiety

Arthritis

Asthma

Autism

Back pain

Bipolar disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder

Brain tumor

Breast cancer

Cancer

Carpal tunnel

Colostomy bag

Coma/Vegetative States

COPD

Crohn's disease

Depression

Diabetes

Dialysis

Epilepsy

Fibromyalgia

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Insomnia

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Kidney disease

Long Covid

Lupus

Mental illness

Migraines

Narcolepsy

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

Panic disorder

Parkinson's

Peripheral neuropathy

PTSD

Rheumatoid Arthritis Schizophrenia

Sciatica

Sickle cell

Ulcerative colitis

See all conditions


See what you qualify for

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Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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