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Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) is a rare genetic disorder that mainly affects the nervous system and muscles.  Friedreich’s ataxia causes progressive damage to the nervous system. It leads to symptoms such as problems with balance, muscle weakness, and sensation loss in the legs and arms. FA is named after the German doctor Nikolaus Friedreich, who first described the disease in the 19th century.

The condition is caused by a mutation in the FXN gene, which provides instructions for making a protein called frataxin. Frataxin plays an important role in cell function. Especially in the regulation of iron levels within cells. The reduced levels of frataxin leads to damage in nerve and muscle cells.

Unfortunately, the gene mutation for FA is present at birth. Therefore, within 15 to 20 years after the appearance of the first symptoms, the person can no longer walk and needs to use a wheelchair. In later stages of the disease, people become completely incapacitated. Most people with Friedreich’s ataxia die in early adulthood. Some people with less severe symptoms live much longer.

In the US, Friedreich’s ataxia affects almost 1 in every 50,000 people. Currently, there is no cure for the disease. Physical therapy and other treatments can help maintain mobility for as long as possible. Nevertheless, FA is a serious disease and it qualifies for SSD benefits. All you need to do is file an application on the SSA’s website.

Friedreich's Ataxia word cloud conceptual design isolated on white background.


Friedreich’s ataxia can present with a range of symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  1. Ataxia: Difficulty walking and trouble with fine motor skills such as writing or typing.
  2. Muscle Weakness: Weakness in the muscles, especially in the legs and arms, is common in individuals with the disease. Muscle weakness causes problems with  walking, lifting objects, and performing everyday tasks.
  3. Loss of Sensation: Many individuals with FA experience a loss of sensation in the hands and feet.
  4. Speech Problems: Speech problems are common in FA. This can include slurred speech, changes in voice pitch or tone, and problems stating words clearly.
  5. Vision Impairment: Vision problems, such as optic nerve atrophy and changes in eye movement control, can also occur. This can lead to problems with focus and depth perception.
  6. Hearing Loss: Some individuals may experience hearing loss. This can range from mild to severe and may require the use of hearing aids.
  7. Scoliosis: Scoliosis is a common symptom of FA. This can lead to back pain and changes in posture.
  8. Heart Conditions: Cardiac conditions are common with FA.
  9. Diabetes Mellitus: About 10-20% of people with Friedreich’s ataxia develop Diabetes Mellitus.


Currently, there is no cure for Friedreich’s ataxia, but treatment focuses on managing symptoms of the disease. Here are some common approaches to treatment:

  1. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy helps manage the symptoms of FA by focusing on strength, flexibility, and balance. An exercise program can help you maintain mobility and independence for as long as possible.
  2. Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy focuses on teaching you how to perform daily activities. This may include using assistive devices such as a cane or walker. You can also use other tools to help you with tasks like dressing, eating, and writing. Make sure to tell the SSA about this type of treatment.
  3. Speech Therapy: Speech therapy can help improve speech clarity and communication skills.
  4. Medications: While there are no specific medications to treat FA, certain drugs may manage symptoms. For example, medications may prevent muscle spasms, treat heart conditions, or manage diabetes.
  5. Surgery: In cases of severe scoliosis or cardiac issues, surgery can help.
  6. Supportive Care: Providing support and assistance with activities of daily living is essential if you have FA. This may include changes to your home, like putting in a ramp instead of stairs. It also includes mental health support to cope with the challenges of the condition.
  7. Clinical Trials and Research Studies: You can participate in clinical trials and research studies. These provide access to experimental treatments and contribute to a better understanding Friedreich’s ataxia.


Friedreich’s ataxia qualifies for SSD benefits if your condition meets the criteria from the Social Security Administration (SSA). To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits due to FA, you must prove that your condition keeps you from performing substantial gainful activity (SGA).

The SSA evaluates your claim for benefits based on how your medical condition impacts your ability to work. It is your burden to provide medical evidence from your doctor and other medical providers. Also, you must submit test results and treatment records to support your claim for SSDI benefits. This evidence should contain the following:

  1. Medical Documentation: Detailed medical records that contain the diagnosis of Friedreich’s ataxia. Make sure what you submit to the SSA includes clinical findings, medical test results, and treatment history.
  2. Functional Limitations: You must submit evidence that shows the functional limitations caused by FA. For example, you need to submit evidence that proves you have problems with walking and balance. Also, submit evidence that shows problems with fine motor skills, speech, vision, and hearing.
  3. Inability to Work: Records that prove your disease prevents you from working a 40 hour work week. This may include evidence of your work history and vocational testing. It can also include statements from your doctor about your physical and mental limitations.
  4. Duration: To win benefits you must meet the duration requirement for benefits. This means that your medical condition is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.


Qualifying for SSD benefits means you have a severe medical condition, like FA, that prevents you from working at all jobs. Below, you can find an explanation as to each type of benefit for which you can apply:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):  

SSDI benefits are for those who can no longer work due to a severe medical condition. The amount of money you receive from SSDI benefits is based on the taxes you paid during your working years. To qualify for SSDI, you must have earned enough “work credits” to qualify.

A work credit is an amount of taxable income. You can earn up to 4 work credits per year. The amount of work credits you will need depends on how old you are when you apply. If you haven’t earned enough work credits at the time you apply, then you will only be able to file for SSI benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):  

SSI is a needs based benefit. It is for only those people with little to no income, such as children and the elderly. Anyone who makes more than a certain amount of money per month cannot receive SSI benefits. The SSA counts the income and assets of those who live with you, such as a spouse.

If you have a spouse who earns more than $4000 a month, then that income prevents you from being paid SSI benefits. The same rule applies if you are living with a boyfriend and he is paying your bills. Also, the same rule applies if you are living with your common law wife and she is paying your bills. You cannot get SSI benefits, no matter how severe your medical condition, if you do not meet the income and asset rules for SSI.


The SSA uses a five step review process to see if you qualify for SSD benefits. The five step process takes into account your medical condition, age, education, work experience, and physical and mental limits. Individuals with FA who meet SSA’s listing 11.17 will be paid SSDI or SSI benefits.

To meet listing 11.17, you must first have an official diagnosis made by a doctor. Next, it must result in the following limitations under either A or B:

A. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.


B. Marked limitation in physical function and in one of the following:

  1. Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
  2. Interacting with others; or
  3. Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
  4. Adapting or managing oneself.


Under listing 11.17, the SSA lists Part A criteria and Part B criteria. You can meet the listing by proving either Part A or Part B. You do not need to prove both.

Under the Part A criteria, the SSA only focuses on how your disease impacts your physical activity. If you have disorganization of motor function in both your hands or both feet, then you might meet the listing.

However, you will only meet the listing if you cannot stand up from a seated position. Or, from being able to balance while you stand or walk. To meet the listing you must not be able to use your hands for fine or gross activities. The following sections discuss the Part B rules in detail. You can also learn more about how the Part B criteria applies in mental cases.


Understand, remember, or apply information. This area of mental function refers to the ability to learn, recall, and use information to perform work activities. Examples include understanding and learning terms, instructions, and work procedures. You must be able to follow one or two step oral instructions to carry out a task.

Additionally, you should be able to  describe work activity to someone else, ask and answering questions, and giving explanations. Likewise, you should be able to recognize a mistake and correct it. You should also be able to identify and solve problems.

Furthermore, you should be able to use reason and judgment to make work decisions. These examples show the nature of this area of mental function. The SSA does not require records of all of the above examples in order to meet listing 11.17.


Interacting with others. This mental area refers to your ability to relate to and work with supervisors, other workers, and the public. Examples include: how you cooperate, ask for help, handle conflicts, and state your own point of view.

Other examples include the ability to sustain conversation and understand and responding to social cues. Also, you need to be able to respond to requests, suggestions, criticism, correction, and challenges.

Likewise, it refers to keeping social interactions free of anger, sensitivity, and being suspicious. These examples show the nature of this area of mental function. The SSA does not require medical records of all of the above examples.


Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace. This mental area refers to your ability to focus on work activities and stay on task. Examples include starting and doing tasks that you understand and know how to do. Also, you should be able to work at a decent pace and complete tasks in a timely manner.

Additionally, you must be able to change activities or work spaces without bothering other workers. Sustaining an ordinary routine and regular attendance at work also shows the ability to persist at work.

Finally, you must be able to work a full day without needing more than average rest periods during the day. These examples show the nature of this area of mental function. The SSA does not require medical records for all of the above examples.


Adapt or manage oneself. This mental area refers to the ability to regulate emotions, control behavior, and maintain your calm in a work setting. Examples include responding to demands and dealing with changes. You should be able to manage your mental symptoms.

Also, you should be able to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable work performance. Likewise, you need to be able to set goals and make plans for yourself without the help of others. Also, you must be able to maintain your personal hygiene and dress in work attire.

You should also be aware of normal hazards and being safe. These examples illustrate the nature of this area of mental function. The SSA does not require records of all of the examples in order to meet the listing.


The SSA has a list of compassionate allowances which allows the SSA to grant severe medical conditions more quickly. These medical conditions are so severe that the SSA believes you should automatically qualify for SSD benefits. If you have one of the conditions on the list, then you can apply online for benefits at Social Security’s website.

When you file an application, you will need to submit information proving your medical condition. According to the SSA, they will accept a number of tests to confirm your diagnosis of Friedreich’s ataxia:

  • Nerve studies;
  • Electromyogram (EMG);
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG);
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI);
  • Blood tests; and
  • Holter monitor.

Next, the SSA requires physical findings of the disease:

  • Ataxia
  • Foot deformities, such as clubfoot, hammer toes, or foot inversion;
  • Nystagmus;
  • Scoliosis;
  • Chest pain;
  • Shortness of breath; and
  • Heart palpitations.

Obviously, your symptoms need to be so severe that you can no longer work at any job. The point of the SSA’s program is to reduce the wait time for those who have serious medical conditions.


It can be difficult to prove that your Friedreich’s Ataxia prevents you from working all jobs for over one year.  Our law firm can help you prove your case and win your Social Security benefits.

We are happy to answer your questions. And, we will help you file your application for benefits. Contacting us and talking to us about your case is free. We will not charge you to review your case. Also, we can tell you if we think you have a chance of winning benefits.

If you hire us, then know that we will not charge you an attorney fee unless we win your case. Therefore, if we do not win your case, then you lose along with you. However, if we do lose, you must still pay for the costs of your case. Typically, these costs are minimal. For example, the costs usually consist of paying for a copy of your medical records from your various doctors.

Unfortunately, many doctors are now using large companies to copy medical records. Those companies charge high fees. We try to keep costs low for you. You can help us by getting your own records. Ask for a free copy. Because, if your doctor uses a copy company, then it can cost a lot of money to get your records.


We will use our legal skills to help you through the Social Security appeal process. It is our goal to win your case. But, it also our goal to make the appeal process easier for you.

We offer a free review of your case. If you call, then there is no pressure to become our client. Even if we don’t accept your case, we will still try to help you.

It also doesn’t cost you any upfront money to hire us. Why? Because you only pay us an attorney fee if we win your case. If we win, then the SSA pays us out of your back benefits. Learn more about past due benefits. If you do not win, then you do not pay an attorney fee.

How much is the attorney fee if you win? The attorney fee is whatever is less between 25% of your back benefit and the fee cap. This is best understood through an example. If your past due benefit is $10,000, then your attorney fee would be $2500.

However, if your past due benefit is $100,000, you would not pay 25% or $25,000 in attorney fees. Instead, you would pay the amount of the fee cap, which is currently $7200. Regardless, you pay whatever is less between 25% of your back benefit and the fee cap. Additionally, you only owe an attorney fee if we win your case. Find out more about what it will cost to hire an SSD law firm.


It isn’t easy to get Social Security benefits and the application process can be frustrating for most people. But, having an attorney throughout the appeal process can make it easier. When you hire a law firm with experience, then the SSA follows their own procedures. You want the SSA to follow their rules if you have Friedreich’s ataxia.

Additionally, when you have an attorney with legal experience, they will have access to SSA’s decisions during the review process. Your attorney can submit medical evidence that may be missing from your case.

There is evidence that hiring an attorney increases your chance of winning your SSD benefits by 30%. It is also smart to hire an attorney to help you at your hearing. After all, you are the star witness at your hearing. If you hire an attorney with experience, then they can prepare you to testify before the judge. Learn more about how to prepare for your SSD hearing.


At our law firm, we can help you apply for SSD benefits for Friedreich’s ataxia. Also, we can help you appeal an SSA denial. Additionally, we will represent you in court at your Social Security hearing. If you have FA, then we can prepare you to testify. Our goal is to prove to the judge that you deserve SSD benefits. We will help you by preparing you for the questions the judge will ask in court.

If necessary, we can appeal your case to the Appeals Council. Likewise, we file appeals in Federal Court. Finally, we can represent you no matter where you live. For example, we can represent you if need the top SSDI attorney in Utah or Nevada. Learn more about filing for Utah SSD benefits. Nevada SSD benefit information is also available. Additionally, we can help you if you live in Idaho, Colorado, or California.

Learn information on Idaho SSD benefits. Likewise, we have information on how to file for SSD benefits in California. If you need help filing for SSD benefits in Colorado, then we have information to help you.


In the past 30 years, we have won millions of dollars in ongoing and past due benefits for our clients. If you want to win too, then you need to hire an attorney. However, don’t hire just any law firm. Make sure the law firm you hire has been in business for decades. Also, ask your attorney how many SSD and SSI cases they have won during their career. If their answer isn’t in the thousands, then they don’t have the experience you need to win benefits.

Also, you need a guide to help you through the legal process. Our lawyers can guide you through the Social Security process. Hire us. Dianna Cannon has been helping people win benefits for over thirty years. Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers also have many years of legal experience. We have won over 20,000 Social Security hearings. You can trust us. We will do everything we can to win your SSD and SSI benefits. Additionally, once you win benefits you also receive Medicaid or Medicare benefits. Medicare benefits come with SSD benefits. SSI comes with Medicaid benefits. Learn more about Medicaid benefits.

We have the legal experience to win your benefits. Additionally, we believe we are the best team you can hire to help you with your SSDI or SSI claim. Finally, it is free to call and talk to us about your case. You should hire the best firm you can to help you apply for SSD benefits. Contact our law firm. We can help you win benefits for Friedreich’s ataxia.

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