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How Does Social Security Evaluate Parkinson’s Disease?

Researchers estimate that at least 500,000 people in the United States currently have Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s is a chronic, progressive disease which can cause severe symptoms. People suffering from Parkinson’s are therefore often shocked when their Social Security case is denied. This article explains how Social Security evaluates Parkinson’s cases.

Each time Social Security evaluates a case they go through the “Five Step Sequential Evaluation Process.” Step 1 asks whether the individual is working at a significant level. If they are not working, Social Security asks whether the condition is “Severe.” A “Severe” condition is one that significantly limits your ability to do basic work activities—such as walking, sitting and standing—for at least one year. Assuming your condition is severe, Social Security asks whether your condition meets a listing.

The Listing of Impairments is a list of conditions and criteria which Social Security uses to determine disability. If you meet all of the criteria set out in the applicable listing, you are considered disabled. The Listing for Parkinson’s is 11.06 Parkinsonian syndrome. In order to meet the listing you must show:

Disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities.


Marked limitation in physical functioning, and in one of the following:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information; or
  • Interacting with others; or
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or
  • Adapting or managing oneself.

It is imperative that these symptoms be documented by a physician on examination. Your statements concerning your symptoms are not sufficient for Social Security to find you meet a listing.

If you do not meet the requirements for the Listing, Social Security evaluates whether you are able to perform work activity. First, Social Security determines whether your limitations prevent you from performing the kind of work you did in the past. If you are not able to perform the work you did in the past, Social Security determines whether you are able to perform other work activity. In making this determination Social Security considers your age, education, and past work experience. For most individuals to be found disabled, they must show that they are not able to work at even a desk job for eight hours a day, five days a week. If you are over 50 and have only done heavy labor in the past, the rules are different. You may still be declared disabled even if you can perform a desk job.

In addition to considering how your walking, standing, and lifting limitations impact your ability to work, Social Security considers any cognitive impact from Parkinson’s such as Depression or Anxiety. In addition, they will consider factors such as pain and fatigue. Fatigue can be a major limitation for many individuals with Parkinson’s. If, as a result of depression, anxiety, or fatigue you are unable to perform work on a full time basis, you are disabled under Social Security regulations. It is important that you and your doctors document your fatigue and other limitations. Portnoy Disability can assist you in doing this, and can provide answers to any additional questions about how Social Security evaluates Parkinson’s claims.

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