Is Social Security or SSI Disability Available for Vertigo?

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Vertigo is sometimes listed on a claimant's application for Social Security disability benefits, usually in connection to a vestibular balance disorder, Meniere's disease, or an unspecified inner ear problem.

About Vertigo

Symptoms of vertigo include positional disorientation, the feeling of being in motion, and sometimes motion sickness. Vertigo is sometimes caused by something harmless such as a virus. However, vertigo may also be an indicator of more serious conditions such as stroke, tumors, or drug toxicities. Traumatic brain trauma or skull fractures may also lead to vertigo.

Disability Benefits for Vertigo

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes vestibular balance disorder as a disability that in some cases qualifies for benefits. Vertigo usually must be accompanied by some amount of hearing loss to be considered disabling.

Vestibular Balance Disorder Listing

If your vertigo is caused by "labyrinthine-vestibular dysfunction" and you meet the particular requirements of the SSA's vestibular balance disability listing, you will automatically be granted disability benefits. To fulfill the SSA's disability listing for this impairment, you must have all of the following:
  • balance problems,
  • tinnitus, and
  • partial hearing loss.

In addition, to prove your balance disorder, you must offer evidence that the function of your vestibular labyrinth is disrupted, in the form of a caloric or positional test. 

Disability for Vertigo Without Meeting the Listing

Some people with vertigo can't meet the above listing for vestibular disorder, but still can't work due to vertigo (for example, they might not have progressive hearing loss, but they meet the other requirements). Can vertigo alone influence the outcome of a disability claim? Potentially, yes, since vertigo can prevent you from working at heights and in proximity to certain hazards. If your prior job included such dangers, you won't be able to return to it. And if you are older than 50, the SSA may not expect that you can be trained for another job.

If you have other symptoms that affect your ability to work in addition to vertigo, such as profound dizziness, disorientation, and blurred vision, these will help your claim. Winning a disability claim without meeting one of the SSA's disability listings is called getting a "medical-vocational allowance"; learn more about med-voc allowances here.

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