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What to Know About Narcolepsy and Social Security Disability

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2020

There is no question that narcolepsy can be very debilitating. The extreme sleepiness and falling asleep at any time causes both physical and emotional issues. Additional symptoms, like hallucinations and weakness while walking increases the burden the condition causes to those who have narcolepsy.1

Because of the unpredictable and dangerous nature of the condition, having narcolepsy may prevent you from being able to perform your daily living activities and your job duties. When this happens, you may find yourself wanting and needing to apply for disability benefits. The federal Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are available to those with disabilities.2

In order to prove your disability, you will have to go through a process and apply. Let’s explore the ins and outs of narcolepsy as a disability.

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Determining your disability rights

Unfortunately, the definition of disability is not widely accepted by all. Both the legal and medical systems can be complicated. The important thing for you to understand is that applying for disability benefits is a process. The legal and medical systems have to define your condition as disabling in order for you to get the benefits owed to you.

Types of disability benefits

You may qualify for short-term disability through your job if you are still employed. Long-term disability benefits are offered through the federal government. These are administered through the Social Security Administration (SSA).

There are 2 different disability insurances administered by the SSA:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays benefits to you if you have worked long enough and have paid Social Security taxes.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pay benefits based on your financial need.3

Applying for disability due to narcolepsy

After you apply for disability insurance, Social Security Administration (SSA) will ask to get your medical records from your doctor. The SSA doctor will review your records and decide what limitations narcolepsy has on your daily life and your ability to work. Additional doctors may need to be consulted.

The process can take some time. You may or may not be approved during the initial review of your medical records. This does not mean you will not eventually get approved. In fact, the majority of people get approved after the initial review. You may have to attend a legal hearing to get your final approval of disability.4

Determining the severity of your symptoms

The doctor that reviews your medical records will be looking for certain things in order to determine your eligibility for disability benefits. These include:

  • A documented diagnosis from your doctor
  • Detail of how long and severe your symptoms are
  • Documented symptoms even after following a medication treatment plan
  • Details of how the symptoms of narcolepsy impair your daily living

Keep in mind that SSA does not list narcolepsy as a disabling condition. This is why it is very important that you can show the severity of impact on your daily living.1

Getting the help you need to apply for disability benefits

You may need help applying for disability benefits. It is important that your application is complete and has the required documents. Make sure and talk to your doctor about your desire for disability benefits. Your doctor will help you fill out the application. You may also want to look into hiring an attorney. Disability attorneys only get paid if you win the case and if the legal system determines you are owed back pay.1,4