Disability Benefits for Epilepsy and Other Seizure Disorders

About Epilepsy and Other Seizure Disorders

A seizure disorder is the usual term used to describe the condition where an individual has reoccurring seizures and is often used to describe the condition known as epilepsy. However, not all people who have seizures are considered to have epilepsy. Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder where abnormal electrical activity within the brain causes epileptic seizures. Many people have seizures that are known as non-epileptic seizures and wouldn’t be diagnosed with epilepsy. The difference between epileptic and non-epileptic seizures is described below.

Epileptic Seizures – The seizures have no clear cause or reason for triggering and are reoccurring. Once an individual has a second seizure with no reasoning behind its occurrence, he or she will most likely be diagnosed with epilepsy.

Non-epileptic Seizures – The seizures have a direct, apparent cause such as a fever or another condition that disturbs brain activity. Individuals who have seizures that are triggered due to a specific cause are typically not diagnosed with epilepsy.

Types of Seizures

Seizures vary in severity and symptoms depending on the parts of body and brain that are affected.

Partial Seizures (also known as focal seizures) occur due to abnormal brain activity from just a single part of the brain.

Generalized Seizures occur due to abnormal brain activity from all parts of the brain. Below are the different types of generalized seizures.

  • Absence seizures (also known as petit mal seizures) are defined by a brief period of little to no movement, staring in one direction, and loss of awareness. The symptoms are described to be similar to daydreaming.
  • Tonic seizures are characterized by the stiffening of the muscles.
  • Atonic seizures (drop seizures) are defined by a sudden loss of muscle control where an individual will unexpectedly fall or “drop” to the ground.
  • Clonic seizures are characterized by repeated twitching and jerking of the muscles. The neck, arms, legs, and facial muscles are typically affected.
  • Myoclonic seizures are associated with quick brief movements such as twitching of the arms and/or legs.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures (also known as grand mal seizures) are known to be the most severe type of seizures. The seizures are characterized by stiffening and twitching of the muscles, loss of consciousness, loss of bladder control, and tongue biting. Tonic-clonic seizures typically last longer than the other types of seizures.

Qualifying with Epilepsy

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability manual known as the Blue Book lists the requirements necessary for epilepsy to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Sections 11.02 Convulsive Epilepsy and 11.03 Non-convulsive Epilepsy are the listings used to evaluate an applicant’s epilepsy case.

11.02 Epilepsy – Convulsive Epilepsy (grand mal or psychomotor)

An applicant must have a detailed description of a typical seizure pattern, including all associated phenomena; occurring at least twice a month, despite a minimum of 3 months of prescribed treatment. With one of the following requirements:

Requirement A: Applicant has daytime episodes (loss of consciousness and convulsive seizures)


Requirement B: Applicant has nocturnal episodes manifesting residual that greatly interferes with daytime activity.

11.03 Epilepsy – Non-convulsive epilepsy (petit mal, psychomotor, or focal)

An applicant must have a detailed description of a typical seizure pattern including all associated phenomena, occurring more frequently than once a week despite at least 3 months of prescribed treatment.

Qualifying with Other Seizure Disorders

All other seizure disorders are evaluated under the same two listings as epilepsy listed above. The listings describe what type of reoccurring seizures can qualify and how often they need to happen in spite of using prescribed treatment. Listing 11.02 deals with grand mal and psychomotor while 11.03 deals with petit mal, focal, and psychomotor. If you have a seizure disorder, compare your seizures to the qualifications deemed necessary in listings 11.02 and 11.03 to find out if your seizure disorder will qualify for disability benefits.


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Board Certified in Social Security Disability by the NBTA. Licensed in both Florida and Massachusetts. Accredited Veterans’ disability attorney.


Board Certified in Social Security Disability by the NBTA. Licensed in both Florida and Michigan. NOSSCR Board of Directors Member.


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