Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (or TMJ) are a group of conditions that can cause pain and mobility problems in the jaw and its surrounding muscles. Experts estimate that as many as 10 million Americans live with TMJ, and the symptoms can differ greatly in severity. Social security disability benefits help people whose health problems make it difficult to work. Find out if your TMJ symptoms mean you can claim these benefits.
How TMJ can affect your life
Doctors don't always find it easy to accurately diagnose TMJ, as the symptoms of the condition can point to several health problems. In fact, if you visit your doctor about TMJ, he or she will probably try to rule out other problems with your sinuses and facial nerves before making a TMJ diagnosis.
People with TMJ often experience jaw pain when chewing. This pain can also radiate across the face and neck. Jaw muscle stiffness is another common complaint, as well as a painful clicking or popping when you open and/or close your mouth. You can even suffer from problems with your teeth, as the jaw problem can make your top and lower teeth rub together abnormally.
For some people, these symptoms are sporadic and mild. However, some TMJ sufferers experience debilitating pain. Chronic pain can make it hard to work effectively, especially if you have trouble sleeping. What's more, if your job means you need to speak continually or you have to work in a social environment, TMJ symptoms can make life difficult for you.
Qualifying for social security disability
The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains strict criteria to decide if you are eligible for benefits. You can only claim these benefits if you have worked in an eligible job for ten years or more. You must also have a medical condition that meets the Administration's definition of disability.
The SSA uses a set of five questions to decide if you meet their definition of disabled. Crucially, you cannot normally earn (or have the ability to earn) more than $1,090 per month. Your condition must also seriously affect your ability to work. The SSA also keeps a list of conditions that automatically entitle you to disability benefits. TMJ is not on this list, but that doesn't mean you can't successfully file a claim.
Using the blue book
The SSA refers to its list of eligible conditions as the 'Blue Book', but the information is available online. There are separate listings for adult and child diseases, and each listing then shows eligible conditions grouped by the part of the body affected. For each condition, the SSA also publishes a set of criteria that must apply before the Administration will consider your claim.
While the blue book does not specifically list TMJ as an eligible disability, many of the side effects you may associate with TMJ appear in the listings. For example, some people with TMJ find it increasingly difficult to talk properly. Section 2.09 of the Blue Book could apply if your loss of speech makes it hard for people to hear or understand you.
Similarly, a lot of people with TMJ suffer hearing problems and severe tinnitus. Section 2.10 of the Blue Book applies to people who suffer from hearing loss without an implant, while section 2.11 applies for anyone with an implant.
Filing a claim
If your TMJ makes it hard (or impossible) for you to work, you can file a claim for social security disability benefits, but the claiming process isn't easy. You'll need to fill out a lot of paperwork, plus you will need substantial medical evidence to prove your claim. Unsurprisingly, the Administration rejects claims from people with TMJ who don't submit an application with the right information.
As such, it's important to consult an experienced social security disability attorney for advice and support. He or she can make sure you give the Administration everything they need to assess the claim. With an attorney, you're also more likely to get your first payment more quickly.
TMJ is an unpleasant condition that affects millions of Americans' lives. Social security disability benefits are available to people with severe symptoms, but you may need an attorney's help to get the right outcome. For additional reading, follow the link here.