Can You Receive Disability Benefits for Vertigo or Dizziness?

When the vestibular system is damaged by an injury or illness, the affected person can experience effects like faintness, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and difficulty with balance and motion (disequilibrium). In severe cases, the effects of vertigo and/or persistent dizziness can be so debilitating that the patient is unable to work. These patients may qualify for monthly disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). In this article, our disability lawyers will explain what the SSA looks for on vertigo claims.

Symptoms and Effects of Vertigo and Chronic Dizziness

Most people are familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Vertigo, but in real life, this debilitating condition is anything but entertaining. Vertigo patients feel as though their surroundings are spinning or moving, even when they are standing perfectly still. Other symptoms and effects associated with vertigo include:

  • Abnormal eye movements, a condition known as nystagmus.
  • Bouts of nausea.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Persistent ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus.

Many people who suffer from vertigo also experience chronic dizziness. In fact, both of these conditions belong to the same family of disorders, known as vestibular disorders. Vestibular disorders are named for the vestibular system, or the parts of the brain and inner ear that regulate eye motion and balance. Other vestibular disorders include:

  • Ménière’s Disease
  • Perilymph Fistula (PLF)
  • Secondary Endolymphatic Hydrops (SEH)
  • Vestibular Neuritis (Labyrinthitis)

If you suffer from any of these conditions, you’re not alone: vestibular conditions are common in the United States. According to the Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA), reporting on data from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), “4% (8 million) of American adults report a chronic problem with balance, while an additional 1.1% (2.4 million) report a chronic problem with dizziness alone.”

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How to Qualify for Disability Benefits: What the SSA Looks For

Before go over the medical requirements for claimants with dizziness and vertigo, let’s quickly review the basic criteria that apply to all types of disability claimants.

First, your monthly earnings cannot exceed the thresholds specified by the SSA. These thresholds are different for recipients of SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). If you are currently earning too much money per month, the SSA will determine that your condition is not serious enough to prevent you from working, and therefore is not disabling.

Second, your condition must be long-term, meaning that either the condition will last for at least one year, has already lasted for at least one year, or is projected to result in death.

Last but not least, your condition must be considered severe. While that sounds simple enough, this is actually the toughest requirement to satisfy. (In fact, most claim denials stem from failure to pass this criteria).

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The SSA gauges the severity of each claimant’s condition by comparing the claimant’s symptoms against the symptoms in the Listing of Impairments. If you don’t match the descriptions in the Listing, don’t worry – you may still be able to qualify in other ways. That being said, matching or equaling the relevant listing generally makes qualifying easier.

Impairments related to vestibular disorders are found under Section 2.00 of the Listing of Impairments (Special Senses and Speech). While vertigo and dizziness are not specifically listed as individual conditions, you could potentially qualify under Section 2.07, which deals with general “disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function, including Ménière’s Disease.”

In order to qualify, your illness must be both (1) “characterized by a history of frequent attacks of balance disturbance, tinnitus, and progressive loss of hearing,” and (2) joined by both of the following effects:

  • “Disturbed function of vestibular labyrinth demonstrated by caloric or other vestibular tests.”
  • “Hearing loss established by audiometry.” An audiometry examine is simply an exam that tests your hearing abilities, like the tone tests you might have received as a child in school.

Like any disability claimant, you should be prepared for extensive medical reviews, and will be required to supply medical evidence from your physician. To use the SSA’s own words, “The diagnosis of a vestibular disorder requires a comprehensive neuro-otolaryngologic [inner ear] examination with a detailed description of the vertiginous episodes, including notation of frequency, severity, and duration of the attacks.” Acceptable medical evidence includes x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs.

If you’re living with severe vertigo or chronic dizziness, you could qualify for benefits to help cover the costs of your groceries, utility bills, prescription medications, and other day-to-day expenses. Whether you’re applying for the first time, or have already been denied and want to challenge the SSA’s decision, let our disability attorneys help. We bring more than 20 years of experience to every claim we handle, and we think our results speak for themselves – just compare our 80% success rate to the 62% industry average.

To set up a free and confidential legal consultation with a disability lawyer, call the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania today. We handle claims throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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