Diann Shaddox Foundation for Essential Tremor
Disability Benefits for Essential Tremor
If your tremor is so serious that you can no longer work because your hands shake too much or you have other disruptive symptoms, you may be able to get federal disability benefits. The Social Security Administration administers two programs: Social Security disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The medical eligibility requirements for both programs are the same.
First, your tremor must have prevented you -- or be expected to prevent you -- from doing a significant amount of work (making over $1,070 per month) for at least 12 consecutive months. Second, you must either prove that you don't have the ability to function at a sedentary job or that your tremor fulfills the requirements for Social Security's impairment listing for Parkinson's disease.
Determining Your Ability or Inability to FunctionTo decide whether there is any work you can do, the SSA will prepare a detailed report called a residual functional capacity assessment (RFC). An RFC is the most you can do on a regular and sustained basis (full-time work). The report will look at how your tremors affect your ability to do certain strength-related (exertional) activities like:
Considering Your Non-Exertional LimitationsBefore deciding that you can do the full range of activities to do sedentary work, the SSA should consider any "non-exertional," or non-strength-related, limitations that you have. Your RFC assessment should address whether your tremors, or your medications, cause any non-exertional limitations. Here are some examples of non-exertional impairments:
Examples of How Essential Tremors Affect the RFCHere are some examples of how the SSA may use a claimant’s RFC (including non-exertional limitations) to decide a claim for disability based on a benign essential tremor.
The SSA should use your medical records to compare your symptoms with the listing requirements for Parkinson’s to determine if they are “medically” equivalent. But it is often up to the claimant (or his or her lawyer) to raise this theory on appeal.
Here is an example of how the SSA might decide a case based on equivalence to a listing.
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