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Narcolepsy: What to do when you can’t stay awake

Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that involves poor control of sleep-wake cycles. People who suffer from narcolepsy experience periods of extreme daytime fatigue and sleepiness. These periods of fatigue can come on suddenly and last for a few seconds or several minutes. If you suffer from narcolepsy you may be finding it difficult to maintain a job. The most common reason you struggle with holding a job is your employer will not accommodate all of the unscheduled breaks you require to manage your “sleep attacks.” Also, if you suffer from narcolepsy your doctor more than likely has restricted you from driving. Which also affects your ability to maintain employment.

While there is no specific Social Security Listing for Narcolepsy, SSA will evaluate your claim using Listing 11.03 of the Blue Book. This listing generally evaluates an individual who suffers from non-convulsive epilepsy. Narcolepsy can be similarly evaluated if you have one episode of narcolepsy per week, your condition has persisted for at least 3 months despite treatment, and your episodes have a significant impact on your ability to perform day-to-day activities.

It is more likely SSA will analyze your claim in terms of your residual functional capacity, rather than trying to approve your case based on equaling a listing related to epilepsy. Your residual functional capacity (RFC) is the most you can do in spite of your functional limitations. In terms of narcolepsy, SSA will determine how your limitations affect your ability to work, mainly looking at the number of unscheduled breaks you would require throughout the day and the totality of time you would be able to stay “on task” to perform your job.

Depending upon the severity of your narcolepsy, you may be a good candidate for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. Ask your doctor what their opinion is regarding your employability. If your doctor doesn’t think you can maintain regular full-time employment without significant accommodations you should apply for SSD. You should contact an attorney to help you apply for these benefits. Using an attorney can oftentimes help speed up your claim because they know the process and how to present the case to SSA. However, keep in mind no one has any control over how long it takes SSA to make a decision on your case. You can take steps to make it easier for SSA to approve your case in the hopes they will approve it faster, but no one can control how long SSA will take to make a decision.

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