Hydrocephalus and Disability Benefits

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Hydrocephalus is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, which causes the ventricles to enlarge and the pressure inside the head to increase. There is no cure and the only treatment option requires brain surgery. Adults with hydrocephalus may develop symptoms of the condition slowly over time or may have a rapid onset of symptoms, which can include headaches, vision issues, vomiting, a loss of coordination and balance, fatigue, and problems with speech, memory, and thinking, as well as personality changes and impulse control issues. Anyone can develop hydrocephalus at any time from a brain injury, infection, tumor, or, for unknown reasons, as part of the aging process.

Symptoms often diminish or disappear entirely once hydrocephalus is effectively treated for some individuals, but in many individuals symptoms can persist at varying degrees and intensities, and may be permanent in some cases. If your symptoms continue to prevent you from working, then you have a strong disability application, provided you have appropriate medical evidence to back up your claim. 

Disability Benefit Programs

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides support to disabled individuals through two separate programs:

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are available to disabled persons of any age. This program does not require you have a work record at all but it does have “financial-need” standards you must meet.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are paid to disabled workers that meet work history or work record requirements. To qualify you must have contributed to the Social Security fund through Social Security taxes during your employment history and dependent upon your age, you typically must have worked between 5 and 10 years. Younger applicants with hydrocephalus will not be expected to have worked as long as a 60-year-old applicant.

Matching a Blue Book Listing with Hydrocephalus

The SSA’s Blue Book is a manual of recognized disabilities. While there is no dedicated listing for hydrocephalus, you may qualify by showing through medical records that your symptoms are equal in severity to one of the following listed impairments:

Stroke or Traumatic Brain Injury – Section 11.04

Traumatic Brain Injury – Section 11.18

Epilepsy – Sections 11.02 and 11.03

Tumors of the head and neck – Section 13.02

Organic Mental Disorders – Section 12.02

This is not a complete list. Qualifying for benefits will hinge on finding a listing that you can meet in the Blue Book based on your own symptoms from hydrocephalus. To meet the SSA’s medical eligibility requirements, you must have:

a through medical history,

a formal diagnosis,

and detailed documentation of how your symptoms affect your daily life and abilities.

Your doctor is an invaluable resource. He or she can help you understand the Blue Book medical stipulations and can assist you in compiling required medical records.

Medically qualifying for children is different than qualifying for adults. Hydrocephalus in children is listed in the Blue Book, in Section 111.00. Your child will be able to qualify if he or she has non-compensated hydrocephalus. The hydrocephalus must also cause intellectual or motor delays.

Qualifying Under a Medical Vocational Allowance

If you’re unable to match a listed condition, then you must be able to show your everyday abilities are severely compromised by your symptoms, including things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, communicating with others, or interacting socially. The SSA will conduct a “residual functional capacity” or RFC evaluation that looks at your physical and mental limitations.

If the RFC shows:

you are not able to work in any job for which you already possess the training and skills necessary,


you cannot reasonably be trained for a new job, given your education level, training, work history, and your physical and mental limitations, then you will be granted disability benefits through a medical vocational allowance. Your doctor can download an RFC evaluation online and fill it out for you.

Applying for Benefits

The SSI and SSDI programs require separate applications. The SSDI application can be completed online, but the SSI application must be filled out for you by an SSA representative, using the details you provide during your application interview. Visit the SSA’s website to start your online application, or call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment at the closest SSA office.

This article was provided by Social Security Disability Help. For any additional information, please feel free to email them at help@disability-benefits-help.org.

20 Comments for : Hydrocephalus and Disability Benefits
    • Mary Kaye Gattuso
    • July 27, 2019

    My daughter applied for disability and was denied twice. She has severe anxiety and depression. She gets very panicky in crowded areas. On paper at the doctors she looks stable but everyday is a struggle. Any suggestions, she has had hydrocephalus since 18 months is 20 y/o.

    • Buffie
    • July 3, 2019

    hydrocephalus is a life threating illness which come with a lot of painful and non functional systems but ssi refuse to recognize it. Its sad that they don’t understand strokes, neuro trauma. There is “NO” medication for this only surgery that may or may work. And the state of Georgia refuse to give any assistance to these people who suffer a great deal.

    • Felix
    • March 10, 2019

    If I was born with hydrocephalus do I qualify for a section 8 housing ? Where do I apply

    • Setfree Magasi
    • February 18, 2019

    im having a son living with hydrocephalus staying in Zimbabwe

    • TB
    • February 12, 2019

    Everyone with questions here or has been denied in the past should strongly consider getting an attorney to help. They can answer questions and will take your case through the process if you qualify. I’m currently working with an attorney to get SSI for my son

  1. Reply

    I read a lot of comments andthecommon thread which i share is-
    We need help getting jobs.
    We need ideas what jobs will put up with hydrocepbalus employees who have memory and accuracy problems. Please. We need direct advice. Thank you

    • Cedric Chiles
    • October 10, 2017

    I am 31, and was diagnosed with hydrocephalus as an infant. I’ve lost count of the revisions, but the last one was in 2005. Reading this article, I identify with a good portion of the symptoms listed. What is my first step for testing?

    • Douglas Hughes
    • August 17, 2017

    Congenital hydrocephalus has caused me to have 20 surgeries in my lifetime. With the growing number of surgeries, came a large amount of scar tissue over the years. This caused me to go on dilantin when I was 17 years old. I have been on it ever since.
    Dilantin has caused me to lose much of my short term memory. However it is necessary to prevent the seizures. Has anyone had similar problems? If so, how were you successfully able to overcome them?

      • March 16, 2019

      I too have Congenital Hydrocephalus, as does my younger Brother. I too have had close to 20 surgeries. (I’ve lost count, honestly). My first ever seizure occurred the day before my 24th B-day. I’ve been on anti-seizure meds since.

    • Steven Murray
    • July 13, 2017

    I’ve worked handyman jobs for years but now after 5 surgeries and an infection am unable to do that kind of work anymore due to restrictions. Do I qualify for any kind of help?

  2. Reply

    I am asking on behalf of a 13 year old boy who had an operation and his day to day functioning is OK and he is considered bright at school. Would he be considered to have a disability.

    • Stjohn
    • March 17, 2017

    I applied for SSI 3 times for my daughter. She was denied 3 times and I just do not get it. There is no cure she has a VP it was placed when she was 2 days old. In my opinion she does have learning disabilities and some emotional. I gave up but after reading this I need to advocate and fight for my daughter. I know many cases where parents received from hospital assistance with how to apply for SSI and received it. However I have been denied 3 times for my daughter.

    • K O'Brien
    • March 15, 2017

    I received social security being retired but can I get more with all my medical bills with nph

    • Monique
    • March 15, 2017

    First I want to thank the author of this article. I wish I would have had this information in 2015 it looks like my son would of qualified for SSDI. That would have greatly helped meet the enormous financial burden we dealt with during his recovery of multiple surgeries. I am actually going to pass this on to the doctors at the rehab center so this can be shared this with other patients and their families.
    I want to point out that the “RFC evaluation online” link in your article comes up with an error.
    Again, thank you.

    • Lesli Anderson
    • March 15, 2017

    This is excellent information that I wish I’d had ten years ago!! So glad you have this on your site!!

    • Jeff Hoag
    • March 4, 2017

    Are you allowed to earn an income at all if receiving SSDI? I have hydrocephalus and had surgery for it but the condition was too far advanced to reverse all of the damage. I can still function in my profession, just not at a level that brings success. What are my options?

      • Lesli Anderson
      • March 15, 2017

      You are allowed to earn an income, but it cannot exceed a specified amount or your SSDI amount will be reduced. This works well for people like me who are on SSDI but not able to work full time in my chosen profession (in fact, I am working part-time in another profession all together). You must keep up to date with the occasional paperwork they send to you, which monitors your hours and income.

    • Robert Brousseau
    • February 28, 2017

    I was born with hydrocephalus. So I’m asking if I qualify for SSDI.

      • April 25, 2017

      have a routine..I need to return to some independent mode.My gait is abnormal. My memory
      sucks. My feet and hands are numb. I don’t want to just lie there and waste away. I want to work..that’s my only happiness.

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