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What is Optic Neuritis and is it Disabling?

FREE CASE EVALUATION

Optic neuritis is a medical condition that affects the eye and your vision. It occurs when your optic nerve becomes inflamed. Your optic nerve is located in the back of your eye and functions to transfer visual information from the retina to vision centers in the brain. Neuritis, in its very basic form, is a term used to describe pain or numbness due to nerve inflammation. So, the term optic neuritis itself describes inflammation in the optic nerve. 

 

What are the Symptoms of Optic Neuritis?

The most common symptoms associated with optic neuritis are pain in the eye, specifically with eye movement, along with vision loss. This can happen in one eye alone or also in both eyes. Individuals may also experience significant headaches and difficulty with color distinction. Inflammation can cause sudden flare ups of pain or vision loss or the inflammation can be constant. 

 

Treatment for Optic Neuritis

For most people, optic neuritis will resolve on its own, without treatment. An episode or flare-up of optic neuritis may cause some type of damage to the optic nerve, but the damage may not be permanent. In situations where you are experiencing regular episodes of inflammation in your optic nerve, steroid medications may be recommended for treatment. Steroid medication may be administered orally or intravenously, depending upon the severity of your condition. The steroid medications, whether orally or injected, have been known to cause significant side effects as well such as fatigue, nausea and vomiting. 

 

What is interesting to note is that optic neuritis is closely linked to multiple sclerosis, which in itself is an inflammatory disease affecting nerve cells. That is not to say if you are diagnosed with one you will experience the other. You certainly can suffer from optic neuritis without having a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis; however for some individuals they do go hand in hand. 

 

Can I File for Social Security Disability Benefits because of Optic Neuritis?

If you are suffering from severe optic neuritis, you should consider applying for disability benefits. Severe would mean regular episodes or flares of pain in your eye(s), accompanied with vision loss and headaches, or chronic/continuous eye pain, vision loss and headaches. It is likely if you are suffering regular flares or chronic symptoms the steroid treatment is not enough to control your symptoms. If this is the case, you are likely struggling to not only complete your daily activities, but also go to work every day, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. 

 

When applying for social security disability benefits, you are claiming either you meet one of social security’s listed conditions that are disabling, or your functional ability prevents you from performing your past relevant work and any other work in the national economy. Certainly, if you are suffering from vision loss due to optic neuritis, that would impact your ability to do most jobs, especially jobs requiring the use of a computer. Symptoms of eye pain, blurry vision and headaches are likely compounded by the use of a computer screen. 

 

Submitting a Disability Claim for Benefits 

If this scenario rings true for you, a claim for disability benefits should be submitted for you. At the LaBovick Law Group, we handle filing initial claims for our clients all the way through the end of the process. We know what the best information to include on the initial application is and frankly what not to say on the application. Of course, you are able to submit your own claim for disability benefits by either calling the Social Security Administration, presenting to your local SSA office, or submitting the claim online. Whether you choose legal representation or to try to handle your claim on your own, if you are suffering from severe optic neuritis you should submit a claim for these benefits. 

 

Once a claim for benefits is submitted, the social security administration will review your claim for both technical and non-technical requirements. The non-technical analysis is tackled first and requires a determination as to whether you have disability insurance coverage. For you to have disability insurance coverage you must have worked and paid taxes into the social security system for the past five out of ten years. As long as you have been working and paying taxes on your income, you will likely qualify for the disability insurance program. 

 

Once it is determined you meet the non-technical requirements, social security will then determine your medical eligibility for the disability program. This is done by determining whether your condition of optic neuritis (along with any other accompanying conditions) meets social security’s definition of disability:

 

  • Social security defines disability as an inability to engage in substantial gainful activity for a minimum of twelve months due to any combination of medical conditions, or if you are diagnosed with a terminal condition. 
  • A key factor for this definition is the 12-month durational requirement. What this means is that you must show your condition is expected to last or has lasted for a minimum of one year. The disability program is not a short-term insurance policy. If you are unable to work for six months but then find your condition has improved such that you can go back to work, you will not meet the 12-month durational requirement. You must prove your condition has or is expected to prevent you from working for 12 months. This time frame is strictly enforced, with no room for movement. If your disability lasts for 11 months and 2 weeks you will not be found to be disabled. If your disability has lasted for 12 months and 1 day, you will be eligible for benefits. Again, this 12-month durational requirement is strictly enforced with zero room for movement.
  • The other requirement of the definition is proof of a severe medical condition impacting your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity. All this means is that you must prove your medical condition(s) prevents you from working, earning a maximum of $1,260 per month. Substantial gainful activity is a monetary amount determined by the social security administration. This amount changes every year, with 2020 SGA being $1,260. By definition, you are able to work, albeit a minimal amount, while still applying for disability benefits. As long as your working income is limited to less than SGA, or $1,260 a month due to your medical conditions, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The hard part of this definition is proving what limitations you experience as a result of your medical conditions and how those limitations impact your ability to perform certain jobs. 

 

As mentioned above, if you find yourself in this position where you are struggling to work as a result of optic neuritis, applying for disability benefits is likely a good option for you. Give us a call today at (561) 625-8400 for help winning your claim for disability benefits.