Parkinson’s disease is among the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) listing of impairments, which means there are clear-cut eligibility criteria for qualifying for disability benefits.

The Blue Book

To meet the SSA’s listing for the condition, which appears in Section 11.06 of the Blue Book, you must experience one of the following symptoms, and your symptoms must affect at least two of your extremities:

  • Serve muscle rigidity
  • Tremors
  • Uncontrollably slow movement known as Bradykinesia

As a result of your symptoms, you must also have:

  • Long-term issues with gross and dexterous movements
  • Pronounced issues with walking, standing, and moving about

Recent and thorough medical records are the key to proving your disability. These should include:

  • A detailed statement from your doctor summarizing your case
  • Documentation of any tests, including neuroimaging results supporting the diagnosis
  • Records of past and present medications and their affects

For more information on medically qualifying with Parkinson’s disease visit:

The Compassionate Allowances Program

The SSA’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program ensures rapid review and virtually unchallenged approval of disability applications for certain medical conditions. Parkinson’s disease is not among the listing of CAL-approved conditions, but there are similar conditions which are:

  • Shy-Drager Syndrome
  • Neurologic Orthostatic Hypotension
  • Shy-McGee-Drager Syndrome
  • Parkinson’s Plus Syndrome
  • Striatonigral Degeneration
  • Sporadic Olivopontocerebellar Atrophy

Collectively these conditions are known as Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) and they are quite similar to Parkinson’s disease and often seen in conjunction with it. They are in fact so similar that they are often diagnosed as Parkinson’s and are considered by many to be variants of the same disease: Parkinsonian syndrome. 

MSA can be extremely challenging to diagnose and to differentiate from Parkinson’s. Only specialists that are exceptionally familiar with all types of Parkinsonian syndrome are typically able to make the distinction.

To be eligible under CAL, you must have a formal diagnosis of MSA, not Parkinson’s. You must also be able to support your claim through appropriate medical records, which include:

  • MRIs of the brain showing abnormalities consistent with the disease
  • Physician notes, documenting progression of the disease and lack of response to available treatments
  • Neurological exam notes from specialist appointments
  •  Activities of daily living (ADLs) report(s) completed by a caregiver or relative, documenting the affects of symptoms on everyday life

Financially Qualifying for SSD Benefits

There are two disability programs the SSA runs:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Medically qualifying is only half of the process. You must also meet the financial/technical eligibility rules in order to receive benefits through either or both programs.

  • For SSDI, you must have worked in the past and paid Social Security taxes. Those taxes amount to “work credits” and you must have a minimum number of work credits from the previous 10 years of your employment. You must additionally have earning from employment no higher than $1,070 per month (as of 2014).
  • For SSI, you must have very limited income and other financial resources, including assets, as this is a need-based program. 2014 limits are set at $721 per month, but only certain sources of income/resources are “counted”.

You can learn more about SSDI and SSI benefits here:

Submitting an Application on Behalf of Someone Afflicted by Parkinson’s

The first step in filing a claim for SSD benefits is to complete the SSA’s application. This can be done online at the SSA’s website, or by making an appointment to complete your application in person at the SSA’s local office in your area. Filing online is often the fastest method for initiating a claim, but you will need to follow up at the local office to submit medical records and other supporting documentation.

It is also important to note that SSI applications can only be completed locally. Online application for this program is not available.

Keep in mind as well that the application for benefits is just one aspect of the claim you will file. Thorough medical records are also necessary. Additionally, ADL reports completed by you, the applicant, and by his or her doctor are also crucial.

When applying for benefits, either for yourself or on behalf of someone with Parkinson’s, you will want to consider consulting an attorney or Social Security advocate. Someone more familiar with the process can help you collect the necessary medical records and can assist with the initial application and any appeals that may be required.

Ram Meyyappan
Social Security Disability Help