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Neuropathic pain affects about 1 in every 10 American adults1, sometimes causing severe disabilities.
While this kind of nerve damage can’t be reversed or cured, you may be entitled to financial benefits and compensation.
Here’s everything you need to know about disability claims for neuropathy. Who can apply, and what benefits can you get?
Neuropathy is damage to the nervous system that causes a nerve or a group of nerves to malfunction.
There are various forms of neuropathy. The most common is peripheral neuropathy, primarily caused by diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), chemotherapy treatments, autoimmune diseases, or alcoholism. It mainly affects the nerves in the body’s extremities, such as the feet and hands.
Other forms of neuropathy include small fiber neuropathy1, auditory neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, focal neuropathy, ulnar neuropathy2, and others.
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms and their intensity vary extensively depending on the individual and may include:
While peripheral neuropathy may only be a minor annoyance for some people, severe cases can be really incapacitating. Daily activities like walking, dressing, or bathing can become challenging, sometimes even impossible. Eventually, when the symptoms are too intense, neuropathy seriously impacts one’s ability to work.
Hence the question: can you get disability benefits for neuropathy?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes peripheral neuropathy (including diabetic neuropathy) as a disability giving rights to SSDI or SSI benefits, the two most common federal benefits programs for people with disabilities.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) supports disabled persons with a qualifying work history, whereas Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applies to individuals with minimal income. Here’s a great article to learn more about the differences between SSDI and SSI disability benefits programs.
However, not everyone diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy can receive benefits from Social Security. To be eligible for SSA benefits, you must meet neuropathy severity symptom standards, prove that you haven’t been able to work for at least 12 months, and have enough work credits (SSDI only).
The SSA Disability Evaluation Under Social Security listing, also known as the Blue Book or the Listing of Impairments, sets the requirement for each medical condition to qualify for disability benefits.
According to the SSA Blue Book for neuropathy, one must meet one of the two following severity symptom standards to be eligible for SSDI:
When applying for SSDI benefits for neuropathy, you will be required to show convincing medical evidence that you meet or exceed one of the above requirements.
The SSA examines each disability claim on a case-by-case basis, and a team of medical examiners will scrutinize your medical records to determine your eligibility.
Your doctor and healthcare providers should be able to assist you and provide the necessary documentation, including, for example:
The more proofs and documents you provide and the more specific they are regarding your limitations to work, the more chances you have to get benefits.
While you may not meet the above Blue Book requirements for neuropathy, there’s still hope. You may still qualify for SSDI benefits through a residual functional capacity assessment (RFC).
The RFC form must be completed by a doctor and go over your neuropathy history and your symptom to demonstrate that you cannot work. More neuropathy disability claims are actually approved that way than with the Blue Book requirements.
Besides the above medical requirements, the Social Security Administration requires all disability applicants to prove their medical condition has prevented them from working for at least 12 consecutive months.
Therefore, you won’t be able to apply for SSDI or SSI during the first year of your working incapacity.
You must have earned enough recent work credits to be eligible for SSDI benefits and financial assistance. The number of work credits you need depends on your age (the older you are, the more credits you need).
Here’s a helpful chart from Disability Benefits Help:
|Age Disabled||Credits Needed||Years of Work|
Nevertheless, if you don’t have enough work credits to apply for SSDI benefits, you can apply for SSI (Supplemental Security Income), supporting people with severe disabilities and limited resources.
If you have neuropathy and meet the eligibility requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance, you can apply online through the SSA website, start your claim by phone at 1-800-772-1213, or schedule an appointment with the nearest SSA field office.
The free disability starter kit (downloadable) provides helpful information about the application process, the required documents, and the disability interview.
Applicants usually get a decision about 3 to 6 months after the claim is received. In case of a denial, you have the right to request a reconsideration. If you’re still denied your disability benefits, you can request a hearing with an administrative judge within 60 days. In that case, we strongly advise you to get the help of an SSDI lawyer.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers financial compensation to Veterans who got sick or injured or whose health condition worsened while serving in the military.
If you have peripheral neuropathy that your service caused or made worse, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation.
The monthly compensation rate depends on the VA disability rating system based on the severity of an individual’s disability.
The VA ratings for peripheral neuropathy range between 10% and 40% depending on the severity of your symptoms. The benefits apply to each extremity affected. So, if you have severe neuropathy in both legs, you may be entitled to up to 80% VA disability benefits. For more information, here are the 2023 Veterans disability compensation rates.