Vertigo for SSDIWorking through the complexities of applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can be dizzying. It is possible to qualify for SSDI benefits when you have vertigo, but mistakes in the application process may result in denial. Not everyone who suffers from vertigo is eligible for disability benefits. You must take the necessary steps to present the strongest case possible to the Social Security Administration (SSA). 

With the help of a skilled Massachusetts disability lawyer, applicants can improve their chances of approval. They can help you avoid common mistakes and ensure the right paperwork is presented properly. Importantly, a disability attorney can guide you through the SSDI application process and advise you on how best to proceed. Secure the financial support you need during this challenging time.

A Closer Look at What Vertigo Is

People who suffer from vertigo may feel like the world around them is spinning. Although there is no actual movement, they can feel like they are falling or tilting. Vertigo can affect their sense of balance, making it difficult to stand up straight. They may struggle to walk and can fall down. Related symptoms include blurry vision, nausea and vomiting, lightheadedness, and sweating.

The SSA may consider chronic vertigo as a disability based on several factors, such as the severity of vertigo, as well as the frequency and duration of vertigo episodes. They will look into if and how vertigo impacts your ability to work and participate in daily life activities. The SSA requires medical support for the diagnosis in order to approve your application for disability benefits.

Vertigo Causes and Risk Factors

The possible causes of vertigo are many. When completing an SSDI application, it is useful to include these related diagnoses. The SSA looks at the big picture of your disability to determine eligibility for benefits. They look at how, taken together, these health conditions affect your ability to work. 

Causes of and risk factors for vertigo may include:

  • Inner ear infection, damage, or inflammation
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Vestibular neuritis
  • Cerebellar hemorrhage
  • Traumatic head injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Persistent migraines and severe headaches
  • Complications from diabetes
  • Issues with blood pressure
  • Chronic otitis media
  • Dehydration leading to a sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Tumors of the inner ear

Qualifying for Disability Benefits With Vertigo

Simply stating that you have bouts of vertigo from time to time is not enough. While SSDI benefits are available for some applicants with vertigo, you need to prove your case. Qualifying for disability benefits with vertigo alone can be difficult. There are important steps to get a formal assessment and diagnosis. 

One of the most common mistakes people make with applying for SSDI with vertigo is skipping this important process. An experienced SSDI lawyer will be familiar with these criteria. They can outline the requirements and direct you toward the help you need for a successful application.

How Is Vertigo Formally Diagnosed?

The diagnostic process for vertigo involves a number of specific hearing tests. You must include the results from these tests as part of your SSDI application. To be eligible for disability benefits for vertigo, ask your health care professional about the following:

  • Complete exam by a neuro-otolaryngologist, better known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT). In assessing your vertigo, the doctor will look at how often, how long, and how severe the vertigo attacks are. They will provide their professional opinion on how your vertigo prevents you from working or engaging in daily life activities.
  • Pure tone audiometry. This hearing test assesses how well you can hear sounds at certain pitches.
  • Speech audiometry. This hearing test looks at how well you can hear and recognize speech and words.
  • Békésy audiometry. This automatic hearing test measures hearing thresholds using pulsed tones that change in frequency and intensity. 
  • Vestibular function testing. This may involve several tests of the vestibular system in your inner ear. It looks at how these balance organs are functioning. 

It is also a good idea to keep a detailed journal of your experience with vertigo. Document episodes over a period of about six months. Describe how vertigo affects your ability to perform daily duties. Your lawyer can advise on how to include your personal account as part of your SSDI application.

Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) Requirements

Some people can manage their vertigo through treatment and support. If they can continue to work, they likely will not qualify for disability benefits. To qualify for SSDI, your vertigo must be so severe that it stops you from keeping full-time employment. 

The formal term the SSA uses in this context is substantial gainful activity (SGA). It describes a specific level of work activities and earnings. If your work earnings exceed the SGA threshold, you are no longer eligible to receive benefits. You can work a little bit, but you must not surpass the defined SGA maximum amount. 

For 2023, the monthly SGA amount for non-blind individuals is $1,470. The SSA updates this figure each year. For blind individuals, the monthly number is $2,460. The SSA also defines a trial work period for SSDI recipients who want to try going back to work again.

Common Mistakes to Avoid on Your SSDI Application

Going through the application for Social Security disability benefits can be a confusing process. There are many requirements. It is easy to overlook something. The SSA may not explicitly state factors that can affect your application. Everyone’s situation is different. Qualifying for SSDI with one health condition may differ from qualifying with another condition.

If vertigo is one of the main reasons you are applying for disability benefits, you’ll want to avoid falling for these common pitfalls. Avoid these mistakes when applying for SSDI with vertigo to improve the chances the SSA will approve your application.  

Seeing Only Your Primary Care Provider

The first person you will likely see about your vertigo is your family doctor. If you do not have a family doctor, you may see another primary care provider. They may agree that your vertigo is disabling, but this alone isn’t enough to qualify for SSDI benefits. To be eligible for disability benefits, you must see an ENT. You must ask them to perform the specific diagnostic tests listed above.

Providing Inadequate Medical Documentation

To show you have vertigo, you must present the required hearing test results. As listed above, these include pure tone audiometry, speech audiometry, Békésy audiometry, and vestibular function testing. To further support your claim, you may also include the results of other medical tests. Examples include radionuclear bone scans, contrast radiography, PT scans, CT scans, MRI scans, and X-rays. Your Boston area lawyer can help you decide how to package this medical evidence in the most effective manner possible.

Missing Other Important Documents and Proof

Medical evidence makes up a big part of your SSDI application. To qualify for disability benefits, you must meet other criteria too. The SSA requires a minimum number of eligible work credits, for example. Your application should also address SGA requirements. Present the necessary paperwork to support your SSDI claim.

Applying for SSDI Without Legal Advice

Social Security disability is a very complex program. There are many factors involved and a lot of nuanced information to understand. An experienced disability attorney knows the application process very well. They will understand how to navigate it successfully. It is a mistake to try applying for SSDI on your own. Seek the legal advice of a lawyer who has helped countless other clients with their disability claims too.  

Reapplying for Benefits If the Application Is Denied

The SSA denies a great number of SSDI applications the first time around. This may be due to technical mistakes or failure to provide adequate medical evidence. An initial denial does not mean you are ineligible to receive disability benefits, however. While you may consider reapplying for SSDI benefits if your application is denied, it is often better to appeal the decision instead.  

When you appeal your decision, your SSDI application goes before an administrative law judge (ALJ). They will take a fresh look at your claim. You can also present additional proof to support your claim. The judge has more leeway in deciding your eligibility for benefits. 

Appealing also preserves the protective filing date. This date determines when you can start receiving benefits. If your appeal is approved, you may be eligible to receive back pay benefits, going back to the protective filing date. When you reapply, it sets a new protective filing date. This could mean the difference between thousands of dollars of benefit payments. 

Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law
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