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If you are a stroke victim, you may be able to qualify for disability benefits. In 2021, approximately 31% of Social Security disability beneficiaries qualified for benefits due to a disease of the nervous system and sense organs, which is how the Social Security Administration (SSA) categorizes a stroke.
To qualify for disability, the SSA requires specific eligibility criteria, and you must be unable to work because of persistent symptoms.
Here's a closer look at SSA criteria to assess if you might qualify for Social Security disability after a stroke.
What is a stroke?
A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a medical emergency that occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow to a part of the brain. A ruptured blood vessel or hemorrhage from a brain aneurysm can interrupt the blood flow to or within the brain, leading to damaged cells.
The Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, which includes qualifying medical conditions, lists strokes within the category of neurological conditions in Section 11.04. The Blue Book refers to a stroke as a cerebrovascular accident or a vascular insult to the brain.
Types of strokes
There are two main types of strokes:
Ischemic stroke: An ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, occurs when blood clots or plaque restrict blood vessels to the brain,
Hemorrhagic stroke: A hemorrhagicstroke is the result of an artery in the brain leaking or rupturing.
Additionally, people may suffer a transient ischemic attack, also known as a TIA or mini-stroke. Typically, blood clots cause a transient ischemic attack. a TIA is an indicator someone may suffer a stroke in the future.
Post-stroke effects depend on the type of stroke and the part of the brain affected by the medical event. Some common symptoms of strokes include:
Disorganization of motor functioning
Limitations in physical and/or mental functioning
Speech or communication impairment
Is a stroke a disability?
Yes, a stroke is a disability according to the Social Security Administration. To receive disability benefits due to a stroke, you must demonstrate you are unable to work because of your symptoms.
Does a stroke automatically qualify you for disability?
Even if your stroke meets the conditions to receive Social Security disability, you'll still need to apply to qualify. Namely, you'll need to demonstrate you are no longer able to work due to your stroke because of persistent symptoms.
The process of applying for disability can be challenging. If you have additional qualifying conditions, it can help your chances of approval to include those in your application.
Top risk factors for strokes
Several conditions are risk factors for strokes, including:
Cardiovascular disease, such as heart failure, defect, or infection, or an irregular rhythm
Obstructive sleep apnea
Criteria for getting disability with a stroke
To get disability benefits for a stroke, you must meet the SSA’s eligibility criteria. Specifically, the SSA will look for impairment in at least one of the three areas:
Sensory or motor aphasia
After a stroke, you may experience sensory or motor aphasia, which causes your speech and communication to be ineffective. To qualify for disability, sensory or motor aphasia must last for at least three months in a row after the stroke.
Disorganization of motor function
Stroke victims may experience disorganization of motor function. To qualify for disability, you must have extreme limitations in two extremities. If you are unable to stand up from a stead position, balance when walking or standing, or effectively your arms for at least three consecutive months after your stroke, you may qualify for disability.
Limitation of mental functioning
To qualify for disability, stroke victims must have a marked limitation in physical functioning as well as in at least one of the following areas of mental functioning for at least three consecutive months post-stroke.
Interacting with other people
Concentrating and persisting
Remembering, understanding, or applying information
Self-management and the ability to adapt
Medical records and treatment reports providing sufficient evidence of the stroke’s overall impact on physical and mental functioning will increase your odds of approval for benefits.
4 Questions to ask yourself before applying
If you're unsure whether your stroke qualifies for disability benefits, it can be helpful to ask yourself some questions. If you answer 'yes' to most of the questions below, you have a good chance of qualifying for disability benefits for stroke:
Have I experienced symptoms from my stroke for at least three consecutive months?
Do my symptoms prevent me from being able to work in any capacity?
Do I experience persistent symptoms such as ineffective speech, disorganized motor functioning, or marked limitations in physical and mental functioning?
Do I have sufficient evidence and have I undergone evaluation for my stroke-related impairments?
My stroke meets the criteria. Now what?
If your stroke meets the criteria, the next step is to apply for disability benefits. It's best to start the application process as soon as possible since it can continue for months or even years. If you’re uncertain about whether to move forward with your disability application, consider the following:
Apply now if:You have experienced certain symptoms from your stroke for at least three months in a row.Your symptoms prevent you from being able to work in any capacity. You have another qualifying condition for Social Security disability benefits.
Consider waiting and applying later if:If you have not yet experienced three consecutive months of symptoms.Your symptoms seem to be improving.
Probably don’t apply if:Your symptoms post-stroke are manageable enough to continue working.You earn more than $1,400 per month (the income limit for SSDI and SSI).
Take the 2-minute Atticus quiz to determine your eligibility. If you meet the qualifications, a team member can connect you with an experienced lawyer to guide you through the application process. Our services are always free — you only pay the lawyer if they help you win benefits.
What type of benefits should I apply for?
As you move through the process of getting Social Security benefits for your stroke, you may notice there are two types of benefits you can apply for: SSDI and SSI.
Social Security Disability Insurance: SSDI is for individuals who have worked and paid taxes for years, including at least five of the last 10 years.
Supplemental Security Income: SSI is for those who haven’t worked much or at all and who have low income and few assets.
While there are important differences between SSDI and SSI to note, one thing they have in common is that both include health insurance (Medicare for SSDI and Medicaid for SSI).
On average, individuals who qualify for disability benefits due to a disease of the nervous system and sense organs — which is the category a stroke falls under — receive $1,342.17 per month. That said, it's possible for those who qualify due to a stroke to make up to $3,627 per month for SSDI and $914 per month for SSI in 2023.
These maximum limits for SSDI and SSI apply regardless of which condition you qualify under or how many qualifying conditions you list on your application. Further, your benefit amount also depends on the specifics of your case, like your work history and income sources.
After reviewing the criteria, you might realize your condition doesn't quite fit SSA requirements. In that case, it is still possible to move forward with applying. Just remember you must be able to show you are no longer able to work because of persistent symptoms.
Even for those whose condition is serious, there's still only a roughly 20% chance of receiving benefits on the first application attempt. The process is difficult, but persistence can pay off — the chances of winning an appeal are significantly better.
As you navigate the process of getting disability benefits for your stroke, Atticus is here to help. We've gathered various resources for people with disabilities, including help with housing, healthcare, and legal support.
Ready to get benefits today?
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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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