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PARKINSON’S DISEASE & SSD BENEFITS

PARKINSON’S DISEASE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Every year, around 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Around the world, there are more than 10 million people living with the condition. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system. It also affects the parts of the body controlled by the nerves. Parkinson’s disease symptoms begin slowly and worsen over time.

The first sign of the disease may be a barely noticeable hand tremor. The condition eventually leads to stiff and slow movements. This makes tasks that would have been easy to complete before the disease, difficult and time consuming to perform.

Also, in the early stages of the disease, your face might show little to no expression. Your steps may become shorter when you walk. Additionally, you may find it difficult to get out of a chair. Or, you may drag or shuffle your feet as you try to walk.

If you have Parkinson’s disease, you should hire an attorney to help you file an application for Social Security benefits at SSA’s website. Contact Cannon Disability Law today for a free review of your case.

Parkinson's disease and disability benefits

WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE?

Parkinson’s disease is a medical condition that affects the nervous system and therefore, your ability to move.  Although most of the symptoms are motor symptoms like tremors and stiffness. If you have Parkinson’s disease, you can also have non-motor symptoms.

It is different from other movement disorders because cell loss occurs in a specific region of the brain. The nerve cells in this region appear dark under a microscope. The dark neurons (nerve cells) produce dopamine to help regulate movement. Someone with Parkinson’s disease has a decrease in dopamine and the cells that make it. Therefore, they have movement problems.

Most treatments for Parkinson’s disease revolve around an increase in dopamine levels in the brain.

THE SYMPTOMS OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE?

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are different for everyone, but symptoms revolve around movement and balance problems. However, early signs of the condition often are not noticed because they are so mild. Usually symptoms begin on one side of the body and remain worse on that same side over time.

When the disease advances you may experience these symptoms:

  • Tremors
  • Slowed movements
  • Rigid muscles
  • Impaired posture and balance
  • Loss of automatic movements
  • Speech changes
  • Writing changes
  • Cognitive problems
  • Chewing and eating problems
  • Not being able to control your bladder
  • Constipation

In addition to movement problems, most people experience cognitive problems (dementia) and thinking problems. These usually occur in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease. Problems, like dementia, aren’t usually helped by medications.

It’s important to see your doctor if you have any of the signs of Parkinson’s disease. Doctors are the only ones able to diagnose your condition and rule out other causes of the above symptoms.

WHAT CAUSES PARKINSON’S DISEASE?

Nerve cells in the brain slowly break down or die, causing Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms you experience with this disease are due to a loss of neurons that produce dopamine. A decrease in dopamine levels causes odd brain activity. This leads to slow and stiff movements among other symptoms.

The main cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, but there are certain factors that can play a role in the disease. For example, specific genetic changes can cause Parkinson’s disease. These genes are rare. In some cases, someone with family members that have been affected by Parkinson’s disease can have these genetic changes.

There is also a small risk of being exposed to certain environmental factors or toxins that can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease later in life.

One of the changes that occur in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease is the presence of Lewy bodies. These are clumps of specific substances that are tiny markers of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers believe that Lewy bodies might be the key to figuring out the cause of the disease.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE?

As mentioned above, your genes can increase your chances of developing Parkinson’s disease.  However, the risk is small unless you have multiple members of your family with the disease.

Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women, but age is the main risk factor. Only in rare cases do young adults experience Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms from the disease usually begin in middle or late life and the risk increases as you age. The disease mainly begins in those who are 60 years or older.

CAN PARKINSON’S DISEASE BE PREVENTED?

Since the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, there aren’t any proven facts that we can tell you to prevent the disease.

However, research shows that regular aerobic exercise might reduce the risk of getting the disease. Other studies have shown that people who consume caffeine get Parkinson’s disease less often than those who don’t normally drink caffeine.  However, there is not enough evidence to prove either theory.

DIAGNOSING PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Currently, there is no special test for Parkinson’s disease. Patients with symptoms should visit a movement disorder specialist (MDS) and a general neurologist.

A trained doctor will find a patient has Parkinson’s disease if they exhibit at least two of the core motor symptoms. Physicians can use brain imaging to show that you have Parkinson’s disease.

Brain imaging is not usually used to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Only select patients will undergo brain imaging because a person’s symptoms usually suggest whether or not they have Parkinson’s disease.

Despite the fact that currently there is no test for Parkinson’s disease, there are scientists who are working on tests. For example, Claudio Soto, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurology and the director of the George and Cynthia Mitchell Center for Alzheimer’s disease and Related Brain Disorders at UTHealth, published their research in JAMA Neurology, a journal of the American Medical Association. Their research focuses on misfolded proteins that are found in people with Parkinson’s disease.

They find the misfolded proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients who have no symptoms of the disease. But if the proteins are found, those people later develop symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The hope is that they will be able to use the proteins to develop a biomarker test. That way the test can find the disease early, before symptoms appear. Then, that person can get early treatment.

If you have Parkinson’s disease and cannot work for at least 12 months from your diagnosis and won’t be returning to work because of the condition, you should apply for Social Security disability benefits. Additionally, you should hire an attorney to help you with your case.

TREATMENTS FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE

There is not a cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are treatments available that can help your symptoms.

Medications are the most common form of treatment. Sometimes, doctors also send you to physical therapy and speech therapy.

Some patients with Parkinson’s disease can benefit from surgery, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS). This therapy is FDA-approved for those considered good candidates.

Lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms. For example, an exercise program might include:

  • Cardiorespiratory exercise
  • Resistance exercise
  • Flexibility exercise
  • Gait and balance training

Your doctor can offer you a treatment plan that fits your needs.

SSA’S LISTING 11.06 FOR PARKINSONIAN SYNDROME

To receive Social Security disability benefits from the SSA, you have to prove your Parkinsonian Syndrome (Parkinson’s Disease) meets listing 11.06. To meet the listing, you should show you meet the following elements with medical evidence:

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.

OR

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

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

PARKINSON’S DISEASE & YOUR RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY

If your Parkinson’s disease does not meet or equal a listing, then your RFC can make the difference between winning or losing your benefits. Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is one of the most important concepts in your SSD case. You can use your RFC to prove that you cannot work. So, what is your RFC?

The RFC is the medical estimate of what you are capable of doing in a work setting. It is what you can do after taking into account all of your limits due to the symptoms of your condition.

In order to figure out your physical RFC when you have Parkinson’s disease, the SSA will examine your medical records. They will take into account what your doctor states in your medical records. Also, the SSA will review any statements from your doctors. They will also review records from the any medical doctors that the SSA send you to visit. If the SSA send you for a doctor visit, this is known as a consultative exam. You can learn more about consultative exams here.

The SSA will also consider descriptions about your physical limits from your family, neighbors and friends. 20 C.F.R. § 416.929. For example, your family or friends could write a statement about your chronic pain, movement issues, or the tremors you experience from Parkinson’s disease. Find out more here about RFC and how it combines with age to eliminate work. Also, find out more about SSA’s Medical Vocational Guidelines here.

MEDICAL EVIDENCE PROVING YOU CANNOT WORK

Your medical records should contain information about your Parkinson’s disease. Likewise, your records should also document your ongoing symptoms. You need to make sure the medical record is complete. But, you also need to make sure that your medical records contain an outline of your residual functional capacity.

This means your doctor should write down whether or not your Parkinson’s disease prevents you from lifting, walking, sitting, or carrying. Also, if your tremors interfere with your ability to use your hands and fingers to grasp tools or type, then your doctor should write it down in your records. In order to outline your RFC, you should ask you doctor to fill out a form that shows your limits. Likewise, your doctor can write a letter talking about your RFC.

The RFC states how much you can lift and how many minutes you can sit at one time before you need to stand up. Also, your doctor should explain how many minutes you can stand at one time before you need to sit down. If you need to lay down during the day, your doctor should include that information. Also, you doctor should discuss the  trouble you have using your hands. For example, you may have problems using your hands to grasp or pinch objects. Likewise, you may have problems using your hands for activities like typing or writing. The RFC statement from your doctor will obviously depend upon how your Parkinson’s disease impacts you. It is very important, however, for your doctor to discuss your limits in the medical records.

WHAT WE DO TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR DISABILITY CASE

There is some good news. You do not need to obtain SSD benefits for Parkinson’s disease on your own. Cannon Disability Law can help file your disability application. Also, we can help you file an appeal after every SSA denial. That way, you can focus on your health and spending time with your family. Our attorneys and staff can:

If you file your application for disability benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you an application summary in the mail. You must sign the summary and mail it back.

Additionally, once you receive a denial from the SSA, you have 60 days to file an appeal. You must meet the time limit set by the SSA. If you do not, then you will have to start the process over again. That means you will lose any benefits you could receive on the old application.

CANNON DISABILITY CAN HELP YOU WIN SSD BENEFITS

In the past 30 years, we have won millions of dollars in ongoing and back due benefits for our clients. If you want to win benefits for Parkinson’s disease, then you need to hire an attorney with the experience to win your case. Also, you need a lawyer to show the SSA that they should pay you SSD benefits for your illness. We can do that. Contact us today.

If you want to learn more about Cannon Disability’s representatives, then read our About Us page. For instance, Andria Summers is an amazing advocate. She can help you with your Medicare plan. She has also won thousands of SSDI cases. Dianna Cannon has been representing SSD and SSI clients for thirty years. Brett Bunkall also has significant experience helping people obtain their SSI and SSD benefits. We are experts. You can trust us to help you win SSD and SSI benefits.

In the past 30 years, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI cases for our clients. Also, we help our clients with their Medicare benefits. Our lawyers and staff can help you apply for benefits using the SSA’s website.

Likewise, if you need an appeal, we can help you do that too. There are also many forms you will need to fill out. But, don’t worry. If you have questions about these forms, then we will answer them. You can learn more about SSA’s appeal forms here. Call us for a free review of your Parkinson’s disease case today. Contact us now about your Parkinson’s disease and SSD benefits application. We can help.

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