Tinnitus, an audiological and neurological condition in which you hear sounds that nobody else can hear, can arise as an acute or chronic condition. While there are treatments that can help people cope with the condition, there is currently no cure for tinnitus.
If you are experiencing debilitating tinnitus, you might be able to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Learn more about the requirements and how to get approved for disability for tinnitus. Call Berger and Green and speak to a disability lawyer in Pittsburgh at 412-661-1400. The consultation is free.
Is tinnitus a disability?
To qualify for disability benefits, you must have a condition that the Social Security Administration (SSA) views as disabling and that prevents you from working for a year or more. The SSA will consider a claimant’s condition as disabling when either:
- It is in the SSA’s Blue Book and you meet the detailed severity criteria for that listing; or
- You have another condition or combination of conditions that are severe enough to prevent you from working.
Tinnitus is not one of the listed conditions in the Blue Book. However, if your tinnitus relates to another condition that is in the listing of impairments, the SSA will evaluate you under that listing.
For example, if you have Meniere’s disease, the claims examiner will evaluate your condition using Listing 2.07 – Disturbance of labyrinthine-vestibular function. For the SSA to deem you disabled under this listing, you must meet the following criteria:
- A history of frequent occurrences of disturbed balance, tinnitus, and worsening hearing loss;
- Caloric or other vestibular test results showing poor function of your vestibular labyrinth; and
- Hearing loss.
If you are unsure if you qualify under the SSA’s listing of impairments, contact our attorneys today. We can help you understand if the SSA lists your condition or set of conditions as disabling, and we can offer advice if you do not meet the criteria.
How can I qualify as disabled for tinnitus if I do not meet a listing?
If you do not meet the criteria under any listing, you can still potentially win disability benefits if you can show the SSA that your condition is so impairing that you cannot engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). This means that, each month, you earn less than the amount the SSA deems necessary to make a living. For 2017, this limit is $1,170 per month.
If you file a claim for a non-listing-level condition, the claims examiner will review all your medical files, your symptoms and limitations, and other submitted evidence like your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form to determine if you are disabled. The RFC helps the SSA determine what kinds of limitations you have and whether you can still work in some capacity. For example, your tinnitus may affect your hearing, ability to concentrate, and ability to understand or carry out work-related tasks. The examiner will also take your education, work history, and age into consideration when making their decision.
If the SSA decides that, given your condition and limitations, you cannot work at your previous job and cannot adjust to new work, it may grant you benefits based on a medical vocational allowance (MVA). Winning a disability claim via an MVA is challenging, though. Talk to a disability lawyer at Berger and Green about how to move forward with your claim.
What are the other requirements for disability benefits?
When the SSA evaluates your claim for tinnitus, there are several criteria they use to see if you qualify for disability benefits. To win approval, you must:
- Have a medically determinable impairment that will last 12 months or longer or result in death;
- Be incapable of engaging in SGA ; and
- Meet other financial or work history requirements, depending on which benefit you are applying for.
The financial and work history requirements are complex. If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your income and assets must fall below a certain threshold because it is a need-based benefit program. On the other hand, if you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have a certain amount of recent work credits on your record to qualify.
For a free case evaluation to see if you might qualify for benefits, contact us today.
How do I prove my disabling condition to the SSA?
During the claims process, you must provide the SSA with contact information of any medical personnel who have treated your tinnitus. Your doctors will then submit detailed records that document your diagnosis and the extent of your condition. These medical files should include:
- Records from all the providers that have treated you for tinnitus and your related conditions;
- Diagnostic tests specific to your condition, such as audiometry, electronystagmography, x-rays, CT scans, etc.;
- Records from all medical exams;
- Your doctor’s input on your condition, prognosis, and limitations based on medical evidence, observations, and analysis; and
- Treatments you have undergone and your response to them.
The SSA will also consider evidence from non-medical sources, such as letters from your therapist, boss, or spouse that shed light on your condition and how it impacts your ability to work.
Without sufficient evidence, the SSA will deny your claim. If you are unsure if you have enough evidence to prove your condition, consider consulting with our disability attorneys. We can advise you on what the SSA is looking for in a disability claim for tinnitus.
The SSA denied my benefits for my tinnitus. How do I appeal my claim?
If you recently received a letter in the mail with the SSA’s decision to deny your claim, call Berger and Green to begin planning your appeal. We can help you collect additional evidence to support your case and request a hearing with an administrative law judge. There are several levels of appeals we can pursue if appropriate.
You only have 60 days from the date on the letter to take action, though. Contact our office in Pittsburgh at 412-661-1400 today to get started so you can start drawing the benefits you need.