Trigeminal neuralgia is a rare but extremely painful condition. Approximately 150,000 people are diagnosed with this disorder each year in the United States. While there is no cure for trigeminal neuralgia, medication and surgery may help to manage the debilitating pain that many sufferers experience.
If your trigeminal neuralgia has progressed to the point where you are no longer able to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through the Social Security Administration (SSA). To be approved for disability benefits, you must show that you meet the SSA’s definition of disabled by submitting medical records and other proof. An experienced disability attorney can help you with the process, whether you are filing an initial application or are seeking to appeal a denial of your disability claim.
Bross & Frankel works hard to help people with disabilities get the benefits that they need when they are unable to work due to a disability. If you cannot work because of your trigeminal neuralgia, we can work with you to put together a strong claim for Social Security disability. Reach out today to schedule a free claim review with a member of our team.
Can You Get Disability for Trigeminal Neuralgia?
The SSA considers a person to be disabled for purposes of obtaining disability benefits if they have a medical condition that limits their ability to work. Many people with trigeminal neuralgia (TN) experience extreme pain that is thought to be caused by a blood vessel compressing the trigeminal nerve. Over time, the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia may become so severe that an individual may have difficulty holding down a job.
Considered a chronic pain condition, TN may also be referred to as tic douloureux, prosopalgia, the Suicide Disease, or Fothergill’s disease. A person with trigeminal neuralgia may experience:
- Episodes of severe shooting or jabbing pain that are triggered by activities like brushing teeth, chewing, or touching the face
- Facial spasms
- Attacks that last for a few seconds to minutes
- Pain in areas supplied by the trigeminal nerve, including the jew, teeth, gums, lips, cheeks, eyes, and/or forehead.
- Attacks that become more frequent and intense over time.
There are some treatments that can be used to control the pain, including anticonvulsants, antispasmodic agents, and botox injections. Surgery, injections, and other procedures may also be used to reduce pain. For some people, the pain associated with trigeminal neuralgia is so severe that they develop depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.
As attacks from trigeminal neuralgia become more frequent and intense, you may be unable to work. The unpredictable nature of these episodes can also make it difficult to keep a job. If you are having trouble working because of the symptoms of your trigeminal neuralgia, then you may be eligible for SSDI and/or SSI benefits.
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To be considered disabled by the SSA, you must prove that you have a medical or mental health condition. You must also show that your symptoms are so debilitating that you expect to be unable to work for 12 months or longer, or the condition is terminal.
To make a decision about whether a person is disabled, the SSA uses a process known as the 5 step sequential evaluation:
- If you are working, then you cannot earn more than a set amount each month, known as substantial gainful activity (SGA). For 2022, SGA is $1,350 for people who are not blind.
- Your impairment or combination of impairments must significantly limit your ability to perform basic work and is either expected to last for a year or longer or to result in death.
- Your impairment must either meet or exceed all of the requirements on the SSA’s listing of impairments (blue book), or it must have other factors that equal a listed impairment.
- If your impairment does not meet or exceed these criteria, then it must prevent you from performing any of your past work.
- You must not be able to perform any other type of work, based on your condition, age, education, past work experience, and job skills.
Many people qualify for Social Security benefits based on a Blue Book listing. However, there is no disability rating for trigeminal neuralgia. Instead, you will have to qualify based on another listing – such as depression or Multiple Sclerosis – or based on medical-functional considerations. In essence, you will need to prove that your impairments and symptoms limit your ability to perform even sedentary work.
If you do not meet or exceed a Blue Book listing, then the SSA will prepare a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. This assessment involves examining the specific functional limitations that impair your ability to work. If you can only perform “less than sedentary work” based on your limitations, then you will likely be found disabled and eligible for benefits.
For example, if you suffer from facial pain because of your TN, you may have a few attacks a day that pass quickly. However, if these episodes become more frequent or severe, then it may make it difficult for you to concentrate and focus. If this happens multiple times a day, or if you have to miss work because of your symptoms, then it may be enough for Social Security to find that you are unable to perform even sedentary work.
You may also qualify for Social Security benefits based on a condition that is associated with trigeminal neuralgia. The specific criteria will depend on the diagnosis. For example, if you have depression, then you will need to introduce evidence of:
- Medical documentation of the requirements of either:
- Depressive disorder, characterized by five or more of the following:
- Depressed mood;
- Diminished interest in almost all activities;
- Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
- Sleep disturbance;
- Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation;
- Decreased energy;
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
- Depressive disorder, characterized by five or more of the following:
- Bipolar disorder, characterized by three or more of the following:
- Pressured speech;
- Flight of ideas;
- Inflated self-esteem;
- Decreased need for sleep;
- Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
- Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.
- Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:
- Understand, remember, or apply information.
- Interact with others.
- Concentrate, persist or maintain pace.
- Adapt or manage oneself.
- Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
- Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.
Because there is not a specific Social Security listing for trigeminal neuralgia, it can be tricky to qualify for SSDI and/or SSI benefits for this disorder. For this reason, it is important to consult with a seasoned New Jersey disability attorney who can evaluate your medical records and develop a strategy to help you get approved for benefits.
Applying for Disability Benefits for Trigeminal Neuralgia
If your trigeminal neuralgia has become disabling, then it may be necessary to file an application for Social Security benefits. To do so, you will need to fill out forms and provide the necessary documentation that shows that you are unable to work because of your disability. You can file your disability claim online, over the phone, or at a local Social Security field office.
To be eligible, you will need to submit medical evidence that demonstrates that you either have a condition listed in the Blue Book or that your limitations from trigeminal neuralgia are so significant that you cannot work. This may include:
- Results of tests to rule out other causes of your pain
- Notes of diagnosis, including any related mental impairment
- List of medications and how you responded to them
- Records of hospitalizations, if any
- Documentation of surgeries and procedures
Because there is no objective test that can prove that you have trigeminal neuralgia, Social Security disability evaluations often focus on your symptoms and how they limit your ability to work. Your treating doctor may include notes in your medical record that detail exactly how your severe pain and other symptoms make it hard for you to work. These types of records can be incredibly useful when the SSA performs an RFC evaluation.
A high percentage of Social Security disability claims are denied at the initial application stage. This is often due to paperwork errors or a failure to provide sufficient proof of your diagnosis, symptoms, and/or limitations. With a condition like trigeminal neuralgia, it can be even harder to be approved for benefits because it is not included in the listing of impairments.
Working with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer can increase the likelihood of being approved. An attorney understands how the SSA evaluates cases like these and can help you put together a strong claim. This may include putting together proof of how your impairment makes it difficult for you to work and/or introducing evidence of other diagnoses that make you unable to work.
If your disability claim is denied, you can file an appeal with the help of a disability attorney – even if you did not have legal representation for your initial application. Call our law office today to schedule a free claim review.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File for Social Security Disability Benefits?
No. You can file a disability claim with the SSA on your own, without legal representation. However, there are a number of advantages to working with an attorney. Most importantly, for a condition that isn’t in the Blue Book – like trigeminal neuralgia – a lawyer can help increase the odds that your claim will be approved.
Some medical conditions have clear-cut diagnostic criteria and are in the listing of impairments. If you meet the criteria, then you will be approved. Because TN isn’t in the Blue Book, you will have to prove that you can’t work because of your impairment. Call Bross & Frankel today to schedule a free claim review.
How Long Will It Take to Be Approved for SSDI Benefits?
In most cases, the SSA issues a decision on disability applications within 3 to 5 months. This time may increase or decrease based on the specific facts of your case, including how long it takes for the SSA to get access to your medical records. For trigeminal neuralgia, it is important that your documentation includes proof of both your diagnosis and how it limits your ability to work.
An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will work with you to put together a strong claim for benefits. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, call Bross & Frankel to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.
Diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia? Give Our Law Firm a Call.
Trigeminal neuralgia is an incredibly painful condition that can severely limit your ability to work or even perform basic functions, like brushing your teeth or washing your face. In some cases, the pain is so overwhelming that you simply cannot concentrate or focus on the task at hand. In this situation, it may be necessary to file an application for disability benefits.
Bross & Frankel represents people with disabilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We are fierce advocates for our clients, working hard to help them get the best possible outcome for their disability claim. To learn more or to schedule a free claim review with a disability attorney, give our law office a call at 856-795-8880 or fill out our online contact form.