If you have been diagnosed with brachial plexus, you may be wondering if you are eligible for disability benefits. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your condition and your ability to work. In this blog post, we will discuss what brachial plexus injuries are and how they can impact your ability to work. We will also provide information on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) requirements for disability benefits and how to apply for them.
Overview on Brachial Plexus Injuries
In the upper body, the brachial plexus organizes sensory and motor messages that originate from the central nervous system and then travel to the trunk and extremities. The brachial plexus nerves come from the last four cervical spinal nerves and the first thoracic spinal nerve. Within the spinal plexus, fibers from various spinal nerves are combined to form multiple peripheral nerves, which innervate the body’s upper chest wall, diaphragm, shoulder, arm, and hand. An injury to the brachial plexus can cause complete or partial impairments of the sensory and/or motor systems. There is the possibility of bilateral injury.
What Can Cause Brachial Plexus Injuries?
Most commonly, these injuries occur during the birth of large infants, when traction is applied to the head while the infant is being delivered. In some cases, stretching without tearing nerve fibers might be enough to temporarily impair motor function or sensory function (neurapraxia). A neural fiber may be ripped or avulsed (usually near the exit from the spinal canal), resulting in permanent motor and sensory impairment. An abnormal pattern of growth may develop from torn nerve root fibers, producing a benign tumor (neuroma). Nerve roots may get blocked by a neuroma, which can cause pain and block proper reconnection.
Besides motor vehicle accidents, sports accidents, and slip and falls can cause brachial plexus injuries. The extent of the initial functional loss depends on both how many nerve fibers have been damaged and how severe the damage is.
Common Types of Brachial Plexus Injuries
A brachial plexus injury primarily affects the shoulder and upper arm (Erb’s palsy) and spares the hand. Generally speaking, these are the most common injuries and their prognosis is the best, as they normally occur as a result of nerve fiber stretching (neurapraxia) rather than tearing (avulsion or rupture).
Lower brachial plexus injuries include painful forearms and hands (Klumpke’s Palsy). It is likely that these injuries will have a less favorable outcome.
When a plexus is extensively injured, it results in anesthesia and total paralysis of the arm, shoulder, hand, diaphragm, and chest wall muscles on the side of the injury. Injury to these parts has a worse prognosis than the other ones.
A BPI typically recovers most fully in the first three months after it occurs. It is possible for BPIs to occur in conjunction with other injuries or impairments. In medical reports describing BPI, other terms might be used such as Brachial Plexus Palsy (BPP), Erb-Duchenne Palsy, Erb’s Palsy (upper brachial plexus injury), Klumpke’s Palsy (lower plexus injury), Horner’s Syndrome (when sympathetic fibers are affected), and “Burners” or “Stingers” (usually associated with sports-related injuries).
How Common Are Brachial Plexus Injuries?
In general, it is believed that 2-3 newborns are affected by BPI per 1,000 births, but even that number is only a ballpark figure due to the limitations of the existing systems for tracking injuries, such as BPI. The use of Caesarean sections has been more strictly administered in obstetrics practice in an effort to reduce the incidence of BPI.
How Is a Brachial Plexus Injury Treated?
BPIs are evaluated and treated differently according to the cause of the injury. It is essential to consult a medical professional who is trained in treating BPI when spontaneous recovery does not occur within the first few weeks after an injury sustained during delivery. Even though aggressive physical therapy and surgery, whether spontaneous improvement occurs during the first three months after injury is seldom expected to result in significant functional recovery.
In the early stages of rehabilitation, a physical therapist and/or occupational therapist will help prevent contractures while increasing the use of the affected arm. At the age of 4-6 months, if there has been no improvement in function, further evaluation may be required to evaluate the possibility of surgical repair.
After the initial surgery, the level of clinical recovery determines if additional procedures are required. When it comes to other types of BPIs, evaluation and treatment typically occur faster because nerve fibers are often severed in such injuries. Affected individuals, families, and healthcare professionals generally aim to increase the functional use of the affected area.
Brachial Plexus Injury & Social Security Disability Benefits
In the body, the brachial plexus is composed of nerve fibers that transmit signals up the spine from the lower extremities to the brain and back down. Injuries to the Brachial Plexus (BPI) often occur in children who were given traction at birth to help them deliver. However, BPIs can also be caused by serious incidents later in life, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, and contact sports injuries.
An Injury to the Brachial Plexus causes partial or total impairment of upper extremity motor and sensory functions. Having to undergo repeated surgeries, losing the ability to care for oneself, and experiencing chronic pain are just a few of the challenges encountered in such an enduring condition.
People with BPIs may require extensive medical attention depending on the severity of their condition. It’s fortunate that Social Security Disability benefits can help offset medical costs and income loss associated with injury in some cases.
How Does Social Security Disability Work?
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are two programs that provide SSD benefits under Social Security. The Social Security Administration administers both of these programs, which provide monetary payments to permanently disabled individuals to assist with personal and medical needs. In contrast to Social Security Disability Insurance, which provides benefits for adults who are unable to work, Supplemental Security Income covers children under age 18 who require extensive care but are too young to work. In addition to providing health coverage, SSI provides disability benefits to eligible individuals. Children with severe disabilities often benefit greatly from the Supplemental Security Income program, which pays for things such as in-home childcare, medical care, surgical procedures, medications, and travel expenses to specialists.
Qualifying for SSI Benefits
BPIs are listed in the Blue Book, where the Social Security Administration determines eligibility for disability benefits since they are classified under nerve and soft tissue damage, which increases the likelihood that someone with a BPI will qualify for Supplemental Security Income.
When determining the eligibility status of a child with a disability, and particularly that of a child with a BPI, several factors are taken into consideration. Parents must have an income level that meets the requirements for SSI, and a BPI must indicate that they can provide for the child’s needs. The severity of a Brachial Plexus injury may also have an impact on eligibility. When a child loses the ability to use both arms in order to assist or take care of himself/herself, he/she is eligible for an SSA disability, but a single-arm injury may not qualify. Aside from that, there are marked limitations and regulations about what can be done with the money a child receives from SSI. A child may only use the funds for the necessities they need and/or bills and products they need for their treatment.
How to Apply
The first step in applying for SSI benefits for your child is to schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office, bring all relevant documents pertaining to the child’s injury and performance throughout the injury, and provide proof of income for the child’s parents or guardian. Through the application process, only a portion of a family’s income is considered to go to the child. Having a higher income than the SSA limit may not affect your child’s eligibility under the deeming process. You should go through the Child Disability Starter Kit before making an appointment with the SSA so that you are prepared for the in-person interview with the SSA.
Listings Most Likely to Apply
Listings 111.08, spinal cord disorders, and 111.14, peripheral neuropathy can each be considered for bilateral BPI; however, both of these listings cannot be considered for unilateral BPIs. Listing 111.06 is not applicable to unilateral BPIs since it says there must be a motor dysfunction in both extremities.
Soft tissue injuries to two extremities or either upper or lower extremity can be considered in listing 101.08. It is possible that BPI will require surgery, and the child may have to undergo multiple procedures and other procedures to restore functional use of the extremity. The normal procedure is to carry out a procedure at the appropriate time, and then the function is reevaluated.
In the case where the function is not fully restored, a different procedure will be considered. The most effective nerve surgery for children born with birth injuries occurs between the ages of 5 and 12 months. Nerve surgery after one year of age is less effective. In cases where nerve surgery hasn’t restored function, muscle transplantation may aid recovery.
Additional appropriate listings may also be required if other impairments are present. All childhood impairments must be taken into account in relation to the child’s ability to function in all age-appropriate areas regardless of the impact of each impairment.
Important things to remember
The first step, as with any childhood disability, is having comprehensive medical records that document not only findings but also the child’s developmental and functional progress. Medical or surgical evaluations, occupational therapy, and surgical procedures may also be performed outside of the child’s home state in addition to their local medical sources.
Additionally, you must seek information from medical professionals and family members regarding the child’s achievements. This is particularly important when we are evaluating children who are under the age of three. In assessing the functional effects of BPI on any child, the degree of success in reaching developmental milestones and BPI effects may be crucial factors. It is best to contact the child’s medical provider and family for this information if the evidence of record does not supply it.
Get information about any other impairments and the impact they have on your job function if evidence indicates there are other injuries or problems. Assessment of functional limitations must consider the impact of all impairments in combination. You should also think about including additional listings if there are other impairments involved. Whenever possible, consultative examinations should be considered in the absence of sufficient information from the record.
What are the Chances of Getting Disability Benefits for a Brachial Plexus Injury?
The chances of getting disability benefits for a brachial plexus injury vary depending on the individual case. However, it is important to remember that eligibility for benefits is not solely based on the severity of the injury. Other factors, such as your age, income, and employment history, are also taken into consideration.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Claim SSD Benefits for a Brachial Plexus Injury?
Some people may be hesitant to file for disability benefits because they think they need a lawyer. However, this is not always the case. In fact, many people are able to successfully file for SSD benefits without an attorney. However, if you have questions or concerns about the process, it may be helpful to speak with a lawyer who specializes in disability benefits.
Get in Touch With a Lawyer Today
If you or someone you know has suffered a brachial plexus injury, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced SSD benefits lawyer today. Our lawyers have years of experience helping people just like you get the benefits they deserve. With our help, you can focus on recovering from your injury and getting your life back on track.