RLS and Disability Benefits

April 14, 2020 If RLS has left you unable to work, you may want to consider applying for government disability benefits. The Social...

April 14, 2020

If RLS has left you unable to work, you may want to consider applying for government disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers monthly financial support to people with serious illnesses whose conditions prevent them from working. While not everyone with RLS will qualify, you may be eligible for aid if you have a severe case of RLS.

Medical Qualifications and Disability Benefits

The SSA uses its own medical guide (the “Blue Book,” which may be viewed online) to evaluate applications for disability benefits. You must have one of the listed impairments or an equivalent combination of impairments to qualify for benefits.

Although RLS is not specifically listed in the Blue Book, you still may qualify if symptoms listed under other conditions accurately describe your symptoms. For example, many people with RLS may have depression and exhaustion due to the condition. To qualify for Social Security benefits with depression, you must prove you experience any five of the following:

  • Depressed mood
  • Diminished interest in nearly all activities
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Noticeable physical agitation
  • Less energy
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

In addition, you must have challenges in at least one of the following areas:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying new information
  • Interacting with others in the workplace
  • Concentrating and completing tasks
  • “Adapting” oneself, (i.e., controlling your emotions in the workplace)

Other examples of RLS-related conditions included in the Blue Book are other mood disorders, heart disease, and vision problems.

Medical Evidence Needed to Qualify

In addition to having a collection of symptoms listed in the Blue Book, the condition must make it impossible for you to earn a living (currently defined as making less than $1,260 per month).

If you feel that your RLS symptoms might qualify you to receive disability benefits, you should ask your doctor to fill out the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form on your behalf. The RFC is available on the Social Security Administration website. After you apply, your physician also may be asked to submit relevant medical records.

The RFC describes exactly how much physical labor you’re able to do, from lifting weights to standing for extended periods of time. The physician’s assessment is given weight in making the determination. Factors considered may include:

  • Any medications you’re taking and their side effects
  • The jobs you’ve had in the past and the exact physical
  • activities you can no longer perform
  • How long you’ve been undergoing treatment for RLS
  • Any other conditions you have that contribute to your inability to work
  • If you perform sedentary/desk work, a physician’s statement describing the limitation on this type of job
Starting Your Application

Although most people will find it convenient to apply online, you can also make an appointment for a face-to-face meeting at any of the more than 1,300 Social Security Administration offices in your community.

While approval rates are low, especially for conditions that are not listed in the Blue Book, a thorough appeals process is available for any denied claimants. Once you are approved for disability, you can focus on what’s important: your health.


Article courtesy of Disability Benefits Center. The RLS Foundation does not endorse or sponsor any products or services, nor is it qualified to provide legal advice as to potential benefits. To learn more or apply for disability benefits, please contact the Social Security Administration.

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