These include a wide variety of injuries and medical disorders that affect the central or peripheral nervous systems. They include multiple sclerosis; epilepsy; stroke; Parkinsonian syndrome; cerebral palsy; various spinal cord, nerve root and brain stem injuries and anomalies; Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease); inclusion body myositis; myasthenia gravis; muscular dystrophy; peripheral neuropathies; chronic brain syndrome; cerebral trauma; various types of dementia, syringomyelia; Huntington’s chorea; Friedreich’s ataxia; and innumerable others.
The limitations produced by these disorders are varied. Individuals with neurological impairments often have difficulty using their hands or feet. Some have difficulty seeing, communicating, swallowing and breathing. Others have impaired balance. Still others have impaired mentation and other cognitive difficulties. Debilitating fatigue is also a common symptom of many neurological disorders or a side effect of medication management.
Neurological disorders are objectively documented by laboratory test results and the presence of characteristic examination findings (e.g., motor, reflex, sensory, cerebellar and other abnormalities). Disability carriers look for these objective markers before they will consider the broader symptomatic picture. Unfortunately, some physicians do a good job documenting their initial findings and diagnosis, but they fail to note the persistence of key findings as time goes by. This can be a killer when the need to file a disability claim arises.
It is difficult to establish a claim under these circumstances. One can resort to secondary sources, such as independent medical examinations, neuropsychological evaluations and functional capacity evaluations, in an effort to rectify disparities and omissions in the treating physician’s records. However, if the treating provider hasn’t documented the persistence of significant findings, the carrier will take note of it and may end up ignoring everything else.
It can take a lot of work to properly document these claims. Besides all too common problems arising from poorly documented findings, it’s difficult to convince carriers that fatigue significantly limits an individual’s functional capacity in cases involving neurological impairments. Carriers are notoriously skeptical of such claims and often give them short shrift.
There are ways of dealing with these problems. However, it takes time and requires considerable legal expertise to do so. Moreover, these efforts are more effective if undertaken before a claim is filed than later, after a claim has been denied. We encourage anyone considering a disability claim based on a neurological impairment to confer with an experienced disability attorney ahead of time so that the risk of potential problems and pitfalls can be minimized.