Cerebral Palsy Treatment and Disability Benefits in California

If a loved one has just been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it can be frightening. You may be wondering, "How will we treat this?" closely followed by, "How do we pay for this?" This is a totally normal reaction. We created this page to help answer your basic treatment and support questions and to help determine your next steps. First, we'll talk about what cerebral palsy is. Then, we'll discuss California treatment options. Next, we'll discuss how to seek financial support for cerebral palsy. Finally, we'll walk you through the social security disability benefits process with both the Social Security Administration and the California Disability Determination Service Division.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy isn't one specific disease. It is a group of neurological disorders that affect a person's movement, balance, and posture. Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development or some type of damage to a developing brain affecting body movement and muscle coordination permanently. Although cerebral palsy may not be diagnosed for months, many children are born with cerebral palsy. The disorder can also be the result of a traumatic brain injury or infection. A lack of oxygen during a complicated labor or birth, or a maternal infection affecting the developing fetus can also cause cerebral palsy.

Seeking Treatment for Cerebral Palsy

While a cerebral palsy diagnosis can be overwhelming at first, there are many long-term treatment options. Cerebral palsy cannot be cured, but treatment can improve the lives of those with the condition. Moreover, early intervention can help your child reach their fullest potential. California has many specialized treatment centers that provide comprehensive care for children with cerebral palsy.

Ray Children's Hospital San Diego
3030 Children's Way, 3rd Floor
San Diego, CA 92123
(858) 966-6789

The Cerebral Palsy Clinic at Ray Children's Hospital is one of the nation's most comprehensive program dedicated to the care of adults and children with cerebral palsy. The team uses a multidisciplinary approach, with input from neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, rehabilitation specialists, occupational, physical, and speech therapists, orthotists, and consulting specialists to provide a complete evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan.

UCLA Center for Cerebral Palsy
Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center
1250 16th St., Suite 2100B
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(424) 259-6593

The UCLA Center for Cerebral Palsy is part of the Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital Orthopaedic Institute for Children. The Center includes a weekly clinic and the Kameron Gait and Motion Analysis Laboratory. It is the only interdisciplinary cerebral palsy clinic in California that evaluates and treats cerebral palsy throughout the lifespan.

Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center
7601 East Imperial Hwy.
Downey, CA 90242
(877) 726-2461

Rancho Los Amigos began as a way to serve families who couldn't afford medical services. After a polio outbreak in the 1950's, the clinical teams reorganized to provide more comprehensive rehabilitation treatment. Now, it is the only rehabilitation hospital in Los Angeles County's Department of Health Services. The hospital specializes in brain, neurology, orthopedic, pediatric, spine injury, and stroke rehabilitation, including comprehensive care for cerebral palsy. Each year, the hospital provides care to approximately 4,000 inpatients and 71,000 outpatients, making it one of the largest rehabilitation centers in the nation.

UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital
Pediatric Brain Center
1825c Fourth St., Fifth Floor 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
(415) 353-7596

Benioff provides comprehensive care for the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of cerebral palsy. The medical team includes physicians, physical, occupational, and speech therapists, psychologists, educators, and social workers, including a full orthopedic team.

Shriner's Hospital for Children - Northern California
2425 Stockton Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95817
(916) 453-2000

Shriner's Hospital is ranked as one of the top 50 orthopedic pediatric hospitals in the U.S. and is home to one of the largest cerebral palsy programs in northern California. Their on-site team includes musculoskeletal pediatricians, physical and occupational therapists, kinesiologists, orthotists, and other specialists.

Alta California Regional Center
2241 Harvard St., Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 978-6400

Alta California Regional Center is part of a service delivery system established by the Lanterman Act that works in partnership with clients and their families, vendors who provide services, advocacy groups and state and federal agencies. The goal of regional center services is to provide quality services and supports that address an individual's unique strengths and needs and enable them to live independent, productive and satisfying lives as active members of their community.

Financial Support for Cerebral Palsy

Once you've learned more about your loved one's cerebral palsy treatment options, it is completely normal to worry about the long-term financial implications of cerebral palsy and its treatment. Cerebral palsy can be debilitating and it requires treatment for a lifetime. The CDC reports that the disorder can cost families $900,000 through a child's life, including medical treatment and lost work hours. Cerebral palsy is also often accompanied by another disability such as epilepsy, autism, an intellectual disability, and vision or hearing loss. Moreover, because cerebral palsy is a lifelong disorder, many of those diagnosed will not be able to work as adults.

Help may be available for your family. You can apply for social security disability benefits for your child with cerebral palsy, or as an adult with the disorder. You can complete the application on your own, but seeking the assistance of an experienced cerebral palsy disability benefits attorney at the beginning of the process may be helpful. An attorney can also give you your legal options if you believe your child's cerebral palsy may be the result of a birth injury or other malpractice.

Applying for Social Security Benefits in California

To apply for Social Security benefits, you can go to your local Social Security office, request that a form be mailed to you by calling (800) 772-1213, or apply online for an adult or child. The Social Security Administration's SSI Child Disability Starter Kit, Checklist, and Worksheet contain lists of all of the documentation and medical information needed to apply. To speed up the process, you can apply online before attending an in-person interview. While the application and approval process can be more than a year, cerebral palsy with severe impairments may entitle you to presumptive disability benefits and accelerate the approval process.

Although social security disability is a federal program, each state's disability determination agency is responsible for making medical decisions about each disability claim. The Disability Determination Service Division is responsible for this process in California.

California Disability Determination Service Division:

Covina Branch
P.O. Box 6118
Covina, CA 91722-6118
(626) 732-8100

Central Valley Branch
P.O. Box 28930
Fresno, CA 93729-9936
(559) 440-5000

Sierra Branch
P.O. Box 28937
Fresno, CA 93729-8937
(559) 440-5200

Los Angeles North Branch
P.O. Box 54800
Los Angeles, CA 90054-0800
(213) 736-7000

Los Angeles West Branch
P.O. Box 60999
Los Angeles, CA 90060-0999
(213) 736-7500

Oakland Branch
P.O. Box 24225
Oakland, CA 94623-1225
(510) 622-3506

Roseville Branch
P.O. Box 619020
Roseville, CA 95678-9861
(916) 774-4100

Sacramento Branch
P.O. Box 997121
Sacramento, CA 95899-7121
(916) 515-4400

Central Support Services Branch
PO Box 997119
Sacramento, CA 95899-7119
(916) 285-8900

La Jolla Branch
P.O. Box 85501
San Diego, CA 92186-5501
(619) 278-4550

Rancho Bernardo Branch
P.O. Box 509135
San Diego, CA 92150
(858) 674-3300

San Diego Branch
P.O. Box 85326
San Diego, CA 92186-5326
(619) 278-4300

Stockton Branch
P.O. Box 207015
Stockton, CA 95267-9515
(209) 472-2391

If you are approved for social security benefits, California offers a supplemental payment in addition to the social security disability payment. The Social Security Administration administers this program for the state of California. You may contact the Social Security Administration about this benefit or go to your local Social Security office. The supplement ranges from $160 to $423 per month, depending on living arrangements.

If your claim is denied, you can file a request for reconsideration with DDSD. California denies 66% of initial claims. For your reconsideration, another examiner from DDSD will generally review your claim. If it is denied again, you may ask for a hearing with an administrative law judge where you can bring witnesses and present supporting documents. Many people prefer to have an attorney assist them at this point in the process. All appeals and hearings in California are handled by the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. There are 15 offices throughout California. You can call the SSA at (800) 872-1213 to locate your office.

If you disagree with the administrative hearing decision, you may ask for a review by the Social Security Appeals Council. If the Appeals Council feels that the hearing decision is correct, it may decline to hear your case. It may also decide your case itself or return your case to an administrative law judge for further review. If you disagree with the Appeals Council's decision, you may file suit in federal district court.

Remember, you are entitled to seek legal assistance for this complicated process at any time. An experienced social security benefits attorney can shorten the process considerably, decrease the likelihood of an initial denial, and help ensure that your family receives the assistance it needs after a cerebral palsy diagnosis.