Applying for social security disability benefits

I am unable to work due to my seizures. I am a person who has always worked and this is very hard for me. I never ask for help because I believe I can do it on my own, but it has gotten my breaking point. I am applying for SS disability benefits, but don't know how to express in words about my seizures. I guess one reason is because I don't like to complain and this makes me feel like I'm a complainer. Could someone please help me put into words how seizures are preventing me from holding down a full time job. From not being able to drive, to grand mal seizures, to everyday myotonic jerks, to side effects of meds, and even my depression. How do I put that into words so that the disability reviewers can understand?? Please help! Thanks for listening!


Re: Applying for social security disability benefits


I understand your pain.  I am dealing with it all the time.   I opened up a claim with Social Security disability.   One thing I can tell you is that I don't feel you have to say it all to them.   They will need to hear from your doctor about you while you are reviewed.  The Neurologist you see will be able to explain to them your condition.   Just provide them your doctors details(address, etc).   They need an accredited doctor to verify it. 

Hope some of this helped

Re: Applying for social security disability benefits

Well said, this is also my advice. My son has epilepsy and was able to get SSD here in Iowa. States vary on SSD approval, Iowa only approves about 30% of the applicants. Hopefully your state is better than that.

Alert your neurologist that you are applying for SSD so they will be perpared. The Social Security office will ask your doctor for a release of your medical records pertaining to the epilepsy. And if you are denied, don't give up, apply again.

I wish you well

Re: Applying for social security disability benefits

I found out when I lost my license that the reason I lost it was because I was unable to drive.  I checked things out:  If I'm unalbe to drive, could this mean I'm 'disabled'?  What I learned was that epilepsy isn't considered a disability unless you experience at least 3 seiz/month.  This is old info and could have changed.  However, you'll need to find out how many seizures you need to experience to be considered disabled and allowed to file for Social Security Disability before you actually do this.  Make sure to keep track of your seizures, to find out if this is the case.

Other forms of epilepsy, such as drop seizures, might not need at least 3/month to be considered disabled.  Its imperative that you follow all of their rules and wait for a long time to finallly qualify.  Take care of yourself,  T

Re: Applying for social security disability benefits

Epilepsy as a Disability

You are here:

Many courts have recognized epilepsy as a disability.

For many years, people with epilepsy have been considered disabled
under state and federal anti-discrimination laws. For example, there
have been numerous successful cases brought under the federal
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 recognizing that people with seizure
disorders are disabled under the law. These cases recognized the stigma
associated with seizure disorders and that many people with a history of
epilepsy are considered disabled because of the varied nature of
seizures. The Foundation worked very hard for passage of the ADA, to
broaden the scope of disability protection and to address the needs of
people with seizure disorders. Despite this history, and in light of the
recent Supreme Court rulings, there has been some question as to
whether epilepsy is considered a disability under the Americans with
Disabilities Act.

Supreme Court says you must prove a substantial disability.

In its recent opinions, the Supreme Court determined that people
whose conditions are controlled by medication will not be considered to
have a disability under the ADA unless they can demonstrate a
substantial disability despite the treatment. It held that people with
corrected myopia (nearsightedness) are not covered by the ADA; neither
is a person with hypertension controlled by medication, nor a person
with monocular vision, where the brain has compensated for sight in one

This does not mean that all people who take medication are automatically barred from protection under this statute.

People with seizures will need to demonstrate that, even though they
are taking medications to control their conditions, they are still
substantially impaired in their ability to work or perform some other
daily life activity, such as mobility (e.g., driving), sleeping,
self-care, reproduction. You may also be able to show that the treatment
itself causes a substantial disability, e.g., medications interfering
with cognition, memory, reproduction. The Supreme Court mentioned that
just because you take medications for your condition, the condition may
still be substantially limiting or you may suffer side effects from the
medication which are substantially limiting.

People with epilepsy are among those Congress intended to protect with the ADA.

The Supreme Court recognized that there are 43 million Americans with
a disability and that Congress intended this segment of our population
to be covered by the ADA. People with epilepsy, and people who have a
record or history of epilepsy and seizures, are among those that
Congress specifically mentioned when it passed the ADA. Congress also
explicitly recognized that people can be regarded as having a
substantial disability even when in fact they are not currently
disabled, and it used the case of people with controlled epilepsy as an
example of the population it intended to address. Congress and the
courts, including the Supreme Court, have also acknowledged that fear of
a person's disability can form the basis for discrimination, and
epilepsy has been cited as an example of this type of discrimination.

How might a person with epilepsy be substantially impaired?

  • People who take medication to control their seizures often suffer
    various side effects. These side effects (drowsiness, irritability,
    difficulty concentrating, memory problems) could substantially impair
    that person's ability to work or carry out other daily life activities.
    These individuals might be substantially impaired because of the
    medications they take to control their seizures and thus entitled to
    protection under the ADA.
  • Many people's seizures are not completely controlled by medication.
    These individuals may have seizures on the job, rendering them
    completely unable to perform the functions of the job for the duration
    of the seizure and often times, for a period of time following the
    seizure activity. Individuals who fall into this category might find
    themselves substantially impaired because of the frequency of seizure
    activity or the effects of the seizures when they do occur.
  • For many people with seizures, there is no such thing as being
    "completely controlled." One can be well controlled for a period of time
    and then have breakthrough seizures. Seizure control can require a
    finely tuned balance of achieving the right level of medications to stop
    seizures while also minimizing significant side effects. This process
    can require frequent readjustments in medication. A person may be well
    controlled, and then suddenly have seizures, so that a new level of
    medication needs to be established. This process can take time, and
    during this time period, activities such as driving are usually
    restricted. Illness, hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and changes in
    medications are common causes of breakthrough seizures.
  • The Foundation's Report to the Nation documents that people
    with epilepsy have an unemployment rate of 25 percent, providing strong
    evidence that they are substantially impacted by the condition. It is
    common for people with epilepsy to go in and out of the workforce
    because of issues related to their seizure condition. Among people whose
    seizures are poorly controlled, the unemployment rate approaches 50
  • Epilepsy has a significant impact on marriage and reproduction.
    People with epilepsy are less likely to marry and have children than the
    rest of the population. There are significant reproduction issues that
    people with epilepsy face: difficulty getting pregnant, higher rate of
    sexual dysfunction among men, higher rates of birth defects among
    offspring, to name a few. Marriage and procreation is a major life
  • Some individuals may achieve seizure control by medication and
    suffer no side effects. Still, they may be discriminated against because
    their employer or others mistakenly believe that they are substantially
    impaired because of their seizures. It is not enough, however, for the
    employer to believe that the person with seizures is impaired; the
    employer must believe that the individual is "substantially impaired" in
    his or her ability to work or perform some other major life activity.
  • Many people with epilepsy do not drive, either because of their own
    safety concerns, or because they do not meet the state driver licensing
    requirements. Lack of transportation has a significant impact on daily
    living and employment for these individuals.

What should you do if you are discriminated against because of your epilepsy?

Continue to file complaints of discrimination with the EEOC alleging
violations of the ADA. Do not think you are no longer covered by the
ADA; there are many ways in which your particular circumstances can get
you the law's protection.

There are other options, too. You can file complaints with your local
or state fair employment practice (FEP) agencies, and you also may be
able to file a complaint under the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or
other federal and local laws.


Find a Local:

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Doctor :

Epilepsy Foundation. Not another moment lost to seizures


Re: Applying for social security disability benefits

I have had partial-complex seizures since I was 5(now 48). I have never acheived complete control. I recently applied for disability because I've tried all the medications and all that happens, is the side effects get worse. Even so, my application for disablity benefits were denied. I am trying to decide what to do next. My husband has driven me eveywhere, our city does not have reliable mass transit. How can I tell them exactly why my seizures happen, when my epileptolotist can not figure it out?

Re: Applying for social security disability benefits

I'm not sure if you were denied the first time, w/o the help of an atty., or with the appeal (the second time), with the help of an atty. You will almost always be denied with your first application through the Social Security Admin.  That is when you can contact a lawyer that specializes in disability claims. He will not guarantee you will win, but you only pay him if you do. I'm unaware of his fee; I'm sure it's a percentage of your earnings from Social Security, and probably for no longer than a year.

Let us know if you've tried. Bad news is that you will wait up to 10 months for you to go to court with your appeal. Obviously a long backlog.

Re: Applying for social security disability benefits

I was denied the first time(w/o any help from an attorney). I would prefer to work and forget all about my siezures.They're complex-partial, not controlled on 4 medications each day. SS denied me due to the reason that I've worked b-4 so I can work again. Even though I have side effects from the medications, my biggest problems are that I can't drive(I usually have 1-2 spells a month), but that is enough to keep me off the road. When I worked b-4, I was driving, but I shouldn't have been. I have had several accidents, but they were small and never reported to insurance. My epileptologist wants me to have surgery because I have some scar tissue from a childhood illness. This is where the focus is coming from. I'm scared of surgery because of the possible side effects. I'm not sure if he would be much help at all without trying surgery. Every job I've had, I've sooner or later had a seizure, and even though I was not fired, the discrimination was obvious. If I lived in a city with good mass transit, I'd just use that, but I don't. Winters are bad 2, so walking or biking isn't a year-round solution. If I could, I would just work from home, but it's hard to find those jobs that  require NO driving. I don't even know whether I shoud try to get disability benefits or just drop it.


Re: Applying for social security disability benefits

Hi Kecl,

It's difficult to establish that epilepsy makes a person unable to work because of the epileptic seizures, as SSDI criteria are rather strict and/or laden with much bureaucratic technicalities.

The common side-effects of epilepsy & seizures are generally more limiting to gainful activities than are the seizures themselves (for instance, I regard my migraines as more disabling than my epileptic seizures, though my epileptic seizures usually invoke prejudicially regarded intense degrees of my disability from individuals who control availability of my pursuits with gainful activities).

Disability evaluations supposedly follow a five step procedure, where step 3 requires at least more than monthly grand mals that are unresponsive to treatment for at least 3 months (and expected to be that way for more than 12 months), and/or less than grand mal seizures that are very frequent, interfering to most all major life activities, and also unresponsive to treatment.

"Residual Functional Capacity" is most important in Step 5, as the common side-effects of epilepsy & seizures often reduces residual functional capacity to levels that satisfy eligibility for a determination of an SSDI level of disability.

The technicalities to Step 3 are somewhat illustrated in the court case "Brown versus Apfel":

The technicalities and importance of Step 5 are somewhat illustrated in the catch-all at:

As I was still trying for employment as I was also required to file for disability, the case of "Cleveland versus Policy Management Systems Corp." illustrates the main technicalities I similarly encountered:
Court Case:
and, reconciling SSDI/SSI with the ADA (ADAAAA):


Re: Applying for social security disability benefits

First of all, I am sorry that sis is now your last resort. Do not feel ashamed, you worked and laid your taxes. Be proud if that.

Second, it is true that most people get denied the first time applying, that is to discourage people that can manage otherwise. Most people get approved in hir third try, some with the help of a swi attorney that knows the inner works and the red tape os social security.

You need the help of your neurologist to support your claim. The doctor will need to verify that all possible treatments have been exhausted and that there is still no seizure control.

How to put it in words. Example. I suffer from crippling grand mal seizures, x times a month. The seizures come in form of convulsions, lost of conciousness, I stop breathing. The effects of the grand mal seizures are confusion, headache, fatigue and vision changes that leaves me unable to focus and with chronic fatigue and physichological changes.. Recovery takes two days on average to get back to a normal state of awareness and to regain control of my mind and body, but then seizure reoccurrence happens just a few days later starting the cycle again. The worsening of my condition has brought up seizures are violent andfrequent, making recovery timelong even with multiple and consistent treatment that has failed to control my epilepsy. I also suffer from uncontrolled petit mal seizures that impairs my brain function and I loose motor function thought the day, so I am unable to speak and move for 2-5 minutes, this happens x times. Seizures also cause my inability to concentrate and also it's lingering effects affect my motor skills as I become unbalanced, I cannot grasp objects and I often fall. This has brought up depression as I am unable to function and I am afraid of the constant seizures."

That is just an example. I guess what they want is for you to express how the seizures affect you. Your dr. Has to be on board and able to support what you write. Best of luck!