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Last Modified Thursday, July 17, 2014


Disability Due to Meniere's Disease
Copyright © 1997-2014 Meniere's Disease Information Center.  All rights are reserved.
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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • U.S. Government Disability Website
  • Social Security Administration (USA)
  • Disability Lawyers and the Social Security Administration (USA)
  • Find a Disability Lawyer
  • Disability Tips
  • State Rehabilitation Agencies (USA)
  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) (USA)
  • Department of Labor (USA)
  • Department of Education (USA)
  • Merit Systems Protections Board (USA)
  • Veterans Administration (VA) (USA)
  • Home Ownership Programs for Persons With Disabilities
     
  • Introduction. 
    • There is no known cause of Meniere's Disease, there is no known cure for Meniere's Disease, and there is no cure on the horizon.  That's not "negative thinking"; that's simply the fact of the matter and there is no point in denying it or offering false or gratuitous hope.  Click here to see the latest research.  The good news is that Meniere's Disease is not fatal, that there are many possible "symptomatic" treatments (treatments for the symptoms) with which patients can try to lessen or at least manage their symptoms, and that some patients experience temporary spontaneous remissions of varying periods of time.  However, some patients are unresponsive to virtually all treatments, including invasive surgery, and will become disabled.  See the other pages of this website for further information.
  • U.S. Government Disability Website
    • The U.S. government has a website for disability information at disability.gov.
  • Social Security Administration (SSA) (in the United States)
    • Meniere's Disease is recognized as a potentially disabling condition by the U.S. Social Security Administration.
      • The SSA "Blue Book" (the cover is blue), "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security," is the official SSA publication that lists diseases and conditions for which SSA disability is available. 
        • Meniere's Disease is listed as a potentially disabling condition. 
          • However, the fact that one has Meniere's Disease does not by itself qualify one for disability.
          • Many, many patients have Meniere's Disease but they are not disabled. 
          • Many patients are disabled by Meniere's Disease. 
          • To qualify for disability benefits, one must demonstrate that one is disabled.
        • We have specially extracted the parts of the SSA "Blue Book" that pertain to Meniere's Disease here.
        • You can find the entire Blue Book at http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook.
      • For your SSA benefits to be approved, your doctor MUST meet the "evidentiary requirements" in Part II of the Blue Book that demonstrate that you meet the Blue Book criteria for disability!  Your doctor must use the "magic words" that will demonstrate that you qualify for SSA disability (as opposed to merely stating that you are disabled).
      • You can find general information on social security disability at http://www.ssa.gov/disability/.
    • SSA Disability Programs.
      • SSA has two disability programs:  SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income).  Generally, SSDI is the better of the two.
        • What's the difference between SSDI and SSI?  Click here for more information at the SSA website.
        • SSA disability programs are for total disability.  There is no SSA disability program for partial disability.  (Click here and scroll down to "Who can get Social Security disability benefits.")
      • Keep copies of everything you send to SSA.
        • It's amazing how often claimant's files get "lost" by SSA.  Truly amazing.  If is happens to you, you'll want to be able to replace the "lost" files immediately.
      • SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) provides benefits for people who have sufficient work credits under social security.
        • Official SSA Publication No. 05-10029, "Social Security Disability Benefits."
        • See the SSDI Disability Planner at the SSA website.
        • How many SSA work credits does one need to qualify for SSDI?  It depends on one's age.  Click here to see the chart.
        • When should one apply? 
          • SSA says: "You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled." (That would be the very same day that one becomes disabled.)
            • There is *no* waiting period to apply.
            • Do not wait for five or six months to pass.  No benefits are paid for the first five months after one becomes disabled.  Benefits start accruing at the beginning of the sixth month after one becomes disabled.  But one does not have to wait either five or six months before applying for benefits.
            • Do not wait for one year to pass.  To qualify for disability, one's disability must be expect to last at least one year (or result in death), but one does not have to wait for a year before applying.
        • What does "disabled" mean? Click here.
          • "Disabled" for SSDI purposes means "totally disabled" and unable to perform any kind of work.
          • (1) One cannot do work that one did before becoming disabled, and
          • (2) one cannot adjust to other work because of one's medical condition(s), and
          • (3) one's disability must last or be expected to
            • (a) last for at least one year or
            • (b) to result in death.
        • At what point do benefits start accruing?
          • One should apply as soon as one is disabled (that very same day).
            • Benefits begin after five months from the point in time at which one became disabled.  This is called the "five month waiting period."  This is a waiting period for benefits to begin to be paid.  It is not a waiting period to apply for benefits.
            • In other words, benefits begin in the sixth month. There are no benefits paid for the first five months from the point in time at which one became disabled.
      • SSI (Supplemental Security Income) provides benefits for people who are *not* covered by social security but who are impoverished.  Social security work credits are NOT needed to qualify for SSI.  The requirements are different for adults and for children.
        • Official SSA Publication No. 05-11000, "Supplemental Security Income" (for adults).
        • Official SSA Publication No. 05-10026, "Benefits for Children With Disabilities."
        • See Understanding SSI at the SSA website.
        • How does one qualify for SSI?  Click here.
          • No SSA work credits are needed.
          • One's income must be limited.
          • The financial resources that one already has must be limited.
          • One must meet citizenship, residency, and other requirements.
          • One must be either blind, disabled, or age 65 or older.
          • If one is blind or disabled, one may be any age.
            • Information about disability:  click here.
            • What does "disabled" mean?  It depends on whether one is under age 18.
              • Disabled under age 18 (click here):
                • a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which:
                  • results in marked and severe functional limitations, and
                  • lasts or can expected to
                    • last 12 months or longer
                    • or result in death.
              • Disabled over age 18 (click here):
                • a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which:
                  • results in the inability to engage in any "substantial gainful activity" and
                  • lasts or can expected to
                    • last 12 months or longer
                    • or result in death.
                • What is a "substantial gainful activity"?
                  • a level of work activity that is both substantial and gainful.
                    • Substantial work activity involves performance of significant physical or mental duties, or a combination of both, which are productive in nature.
                    • Gainful activity is work performed for pay or profit; or work of a nature generally performed for pay or profit, whether or not a profit is realized. For activity to be substantial, it need not necessarily be performed on a full–time basis; work activity performed on a part–time basis may also be substantial.
                  • For SSI purposes, the substantial gainful activity provision does not apply to blind individuals.
      • Social Security Questions and Answers from the National Association of Social Security Claimants' Representatives.
      • Social Security Disability FAQ (frequently asked questions -- and answers).
      • Social Security Disability Overview.
      • Social Security and Disability Resource Center.  Publisher Tim Moore is a former disability claims examiner.
      • Book:  Nolo's Guide to Social Security Disability: Getting & Keeping Your Benefits
    • Social Security Benefits and Lawyers.  
      • If you hire a lawyer to represent you in your disability claim, you don't have to pay lawyer fees up front.  Their fees are paid directly by the Social Security Administration and are deducted from the back benefits that you recover.  There is no fee if you don't recover back benefits.
        • Succeeding with a claim for disability benefits is an uphill battle, especially for a rare, little understood, "invisible" condition such as Meniere's Disease. Most attorneys provide an initial consultation at low or no cost.  Legal practice before the Social Security Administration is subject to a special federal regulation that sets a maximum fee, and an attorney's fees must be reasonable and approved by the Social Security Administration.  You pay the fee only if you win your claim and recover back benefits.  Our understanding is that the maximum fee is 25% of the back benefits recovered, up to a set maximum of $5,300 -- but you'll want to confirm the fees before committing to hiring a lawyer.  The fee will be paid directly to your lawyer by the Social Security Administration out of your back benefits, and you must first acknowledge that the lawyer represented you and earned the fee.  However, one must pay out of pocket for expenses (as opposed to the lawyer's fee), such as the price that one's doctor charges for making photocopies of medical records.
        • We think that it is unconscionable that one must usually obtain the services of a lawyer to recover what one is due from the Social Security Administration, and that one's recovered back benefits are reduced by the attorney's fees.  We believe that when SSA denies a meritorious claim, that SSA should pay the lawyer's fees.  However, that's not the system.  The fact is that patients are better off recovering 75% of their back benefits than not.
        • One will want to consult with an attorney early in the process so as to avoid making an unrecoverable error.
      • U.S. Social Security Administration
      • Findlaw.com
    • Lawyers with Internet links that connects them with the disability representation of patients with Meniere's Disease. 
       
      We don't endorse, recommend, or refer to lawyers for the simple reason that we have no particular competence to do so.  The following lawyers are listed simply because they have Internet links that connect them with the disability representation of patients with Meniere's Disease.
      U.S. lawyers:  To be listed, simply provide us with the Internet link that connects you with the disability representation of patients with Meniere's Disease.  There is no charge.  Click here.
       

Disability Tips 

  • Always tell the truth.
    • When you tell the truth, you don't need a long memory.
  • Beware the "Yes" or "No" question.
    • Beware the question that apparently calls for a yes or no answer.  When it comes to disability, there are few questions that can be answered honestly and completely with either a yes or a no.  For example, consider this question:  "Do you have days when you can work eight hours without having an attack?"  Virtually any Meniere's patient could answer this question "yes," but consider whether that is an honest and complete answer.  To many people reading that answer, that answer would mean that you can actually work a job most of the time without any problem, and therefore you should not qualify for disability benefits.  If that is true, so be it.  However, a more accurate answer, if true, might be to say, "Once every two or three weeks I have a day without an attack.  However, I suffer frequent acute 'drop' attacks that occur without warning.  When these attacks strike, I fall to the floor due to acute vertigo and vomit because of the vertigo.  These attacks last from one to four hours, during which time I am effectively immobilized.  (Etc., etc., etc.)"  Remember that most disability questions are designed to *disqualify* you from receiving disability benefits.  Don't be tricked into a yes-or-no answer that is incomplete and portrays a false impression by omission. 
  • Don't volunteer any information.
    • Don't volunteer any information that is not asked for.  That nice person from Social Security (or whatever) is NOT there to help you to get your benefits.  That person is there to disqualify you.  Don't help that person to disqualify you, especially if that person could misinterpret whatever information you are "helpfully" volunteering.  
  • Don't be a comedian.
    • Your disability application, interviews, and hearings aren't the Jay Leno show.  Some people like to joke around to cover up their nervousness.  The bureaucrats don't like it.  You are wasting their time and getting yourself into trouble.  Be congenial, but don't overdo it. 
  • Never go alone.
    • Never go alone to a disability interview or hearing.  Always take a relative or a trusted friend.  Take your attorney if possible.  There is strength in numbers and bureaucrats are less likely to be unpleasant in front of witnesses.  It's human nature. 
    • Afterwards, write up your notes as soon as you get home -- or earlier.  Write them together with your witness.  Sign them and date them and keep copies.  It is possible that the bureaucrat will claim that you said something that you didn't -- or claim that you didn't say something that you did -- through a misunderstanding or otherwise.  Don't let their misunderstanding (or otherwise) cost you your benefits.
  • State Rehabilitation Agencies 
    • Each state has some sort of agency for the purpose of assisting disabled people whose employment is threatened by their disabilities to become rehabilitated, to become employed or to retain employment, and to save the government the expense of providing welfare benefits to those who, with assistance, can be productive, taxpaying employees.  Various states have their own benefits and criteria for qualifying (possibly including income or savings tests -- our speculation).  Patients can be expected to pay something toward the costs of services provided.
      • As little known and almost secretive as these agencies may be in some cases, we have heard of anecdotal successes in obtaining hearing aids and even cochlear implants.  We wonder whether vestibular rehabilitation is available, and what other benefits might be available to "those who know."
    • Although these agencies are created to carry out state programs, in addition, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) provides funding to state rehabilitation agencies to provide services to persons who are receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) and persons who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based upon disability or blindness under certain conditions.  The services must result in return to work for at least nine continuous months at a substantial earnings level, which is referred to as "substantial gainful activity."  See more here.
    • Of course, navigating any government benefit is much easier said than done.  If you can find web resources or rehabilitation counselors outside of the agencies to consult and obtain information before you first make contact with the agency itself, that might be the better approach.  If you can find a disability lawyer with whom to consult, so much the better.  If you do these things, you will know more than *some* state employees, and you will have to *tactfully* help them out.  (Sad, but often true when dealing with any government agency.  No offense intended to dedicated government employees who practice excellence in their work; they do the work of three for the salary of one.)
    • Link:  State Rehabilitation Providers.
      • The Social Security Administration maintains this link, but the services provided are primarily state agency programs.  As mentioned above, SSA may provide additional funding for SSDI and SSI rehabilitation programs. 
  • U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 
    • Note that the ADA does not guarantee jobs to people who are disabled or who become disabled.  Rather, the ADA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to those employees (or applicants) who are disabled, or who are perceived to be disabled, to enable them to perform jobs that they could not otherwise perform.  An employer is under no obligation under the ADA to employ a person in a job that the person cannot perform with reasonable accommodations, nor is an employer required to provide extraordinary accommodations to a disabled employee.
    • Enforcement.  The ADA is enforced either by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), depending on the circumstances.
      • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
      • U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
        • According to the DOJ website, the DOJ enforces the ADA in these areas:
          • Title I: Employment practices by units of State and local government,
          • Title II: Programs, services and activities of State and local government, and
          • Title III: Public accommodations and commercial facilities (private businesses and non-profit service providers).
    • ADA Document Center. Very comprehensive.
  • Disabilityinfo.gov has information on U.S. government programs to assist the disabled.
  • Disability Law Blog by Samuel R. Bagenstos, Professor of Law, Washington University, St. Louis.
  • DisabilitySecrets.com has information on U.S. social security disability claims.
  • DisabilityResources.org reports on many disability resources.
  • GovBenefits.gov has general information on U.S. government benefits of all kinds.
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). 
    • Job Accommodation Network (JAN).  JAN is a U.S. Department of Labor toll-free information and referral service on job accommodations for people with disabilities; on the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and on resources for technical assistance, funding, education, and services related to the employment of people with disabilities.
    • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • U.S. Department of Education (DOE). 
    • Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
      • The DOE, through the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Office of Program Operations (OPO), is responsible for administering the Rehabilitation Act through state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies.  There is a specialized branch for deafness and communicative disorders.  Services offered under the Rehabilitation act are varied and range from training to grants for the purchase of equipment.  You might inquire whether you qualify for exotic hearing aids or other equipment to help to keep you employed.  At least one, unconfirmed, anecdotal report suggests that exotic hearing aids are possible, without regard to income or wealth, if necessary and appropriate to keep you employed.  We suggest that you contact your state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency to get the official word.
  • U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board 
    • A 2001 opinion by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) supports a finding that a Meniere's patient, who was an employee of the federal government, was disabled and entitled to a disability retirement annuity under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).  (Many thanks to reader John Dymond for bringing this great link to our attention.) 
      • The opinion is full of the usual legal gobbledygook, but the bottom line is that after three separate denials of benefits by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the patient finally prevailed on her fourth attempt, an appeal which was heard by the MSPB.  (In its opinion, the MSPB noted that the Social Security Administration (SSA) had awarded disability insurance benefits to the patient.)  Within the opinion, a couple of points stand out (at least to us).  (1) The conclusion of a physician needs to be supported by medical records (tests, examination results, [results of] therapy, etc., as well as by clinical findings (hearing tests, sensory organization [tests], and movement coordination [tests]).  (2) It is important to get all of the available information "on the record" as early in the process as possible, because at a later date it may not be possible to bring up additional information "absent a showing that it was unavailable before the record was closed despite the party's due diligence."  Although the patient in this case represented herself before the MSPB quite successfully, there is a lot of technical ground covered in the opinion, and given the perception of a culture of adversity that one encounters in the pursuit of disability claims (everywhere), one might want to seriously consider obtaining legal counsel early in the process.  (After all, patients will certainly face legal counsel opposing their claims.)
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 
    • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes Meniere's Disease as a potentially "rated" disability in 38 C.F.R. § 4.87, Disability Code (DC) 6205.
      • Link (.pdf).
        • 6205 Meniere’s syndrome (endolymphatic hydrops): 
          • Hearing impairment with attacks of vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring more than once weekly, with or without tinnitus:  100
          • Hearing impairment with attacks of vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring from one to four times a month, with or without tinnitus:  60
          • Hearing impairment with vertigo less than once a month, with or without tinnitus:  30
        • NOTE: Evaluate Meniere’s syndrome either under these criteria or by separately evaluating vertigo (as a peripheral vestibular disorder), hearing impairment, and tinnitus, whichever method results in a higher overall evaluation. But do not combine an evaluation for hearing impairment, tinnitus, or vertigo with an evaluation under diagnostic code 6205.
      • Note that in addition to monthly payments, a disability rating provides access to medical care by the VA.  This could be even more important than the monthly payments.
      • Click here to search for more information on this regulation as it applies to Meniere's Disease.
    • Department of Veterans Affairs Fact Sheets on Compensation and Pension Benefits.
    • Veterans Benefits Manual by the National Veterans Legal Services Program.
    • Two problems with obtaining veteran's benefits due to a diagnosis of "Meniere's Disease" can be causation and timing.  "Meniere's Disease" caused by military service is probably better diagnosed as a different form of endolymphatic hydrops.
      • Remember that Meniere's Disease is considered by most authorities to be "idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops," with "idiopathic" meaning "cause unknown." With the cause unknown, it is difficult to establish the time period during which Meniere's Disease began.  If the cause and therefore the timing is unknown, it is hard to say that it was caused by line-of-duty military service.
        • We have been contacted by a veteran who anecdotally reports that he was awarded service-related retirement based on service-related aggravation of his Meniere's Disease, idiopathic or not (meaning whether the cause of the Meniere's Disease was service-related or not).  Thus, one approach might be aggravation rather than causation.
      • If one has endolymphatic hydrops caused by line-of-duty military service, then most authorities would say that one does have not "idiopathic" endolymphatic hydrops (Meniere's Disease), because the cause is known.  In that case, one might have "secondary endolymphatic hydrops" ("secondary" being secondary to the known cause of line-of-duty military service) or "delayed endolymphatic hydrops," where symptoms manifest subsequent to, rather than coincident with line-of-duty military service.  See more information on this subject on our Cause Page.
    • Tip to Service Members:  Be sure that symptoms of endolymphatic hydrops (whether Meniere's Disease or any other form) and anything else are documented in your medical records, ESPECIALLY in your separation physical.
  • Home Ownership Programs for Persons With Disabilities
    • For many disabled persons, home ownership may be a stretch, but there are some resources available, and it is always good to know one's options.

    Copyright © 1997-2014 Meniere's Disease Information Center.  All rights are reserved.
    All copying, including (but not limited to) websites, bulletin boards, forums, and blogs, is prohibited.
    Click here for more copyright information.