Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects memory and cognition. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates 5.3 million people suffer from this disease, including 200,000 people under age 65. Many of these individuals face severe and even debilitating cognitive impairments. Fortunately, as any disability lawyer in Chicago knows, Social Security Disability benefits may be available to help.
Qualifying for benefits
Victims of Alzheimer’s may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income benefits. These people must first meet the earnings requirements for each program. SSDI recipients need adequate past earnings, while SSI beneficiaries must have limited assets and income. Additionally, people engaging in substantial work cannot receive benefits through either program.
People who meet financial criteria must also establish the legitimacy and severity of their medical conditions. These people may prove they meet medical criteria for a condition the Social Security Administration recognizes as disabling. Alternately, as a disability lawyer in Chicago would agree, SSD applicants may show that their functional limitations effectively prevent gainful employment.
Meeting a disability listing
SSD claims for Alzheimer’s can be evaluated under the “Blue Book” listing for organic mental disorders. The SSA automatically considers these mental disorders disabling if they cause specific symptoms and functional restrictions. These symptoms include memory issues, IQ loss, personality changes or loss of awareness of time and place. SSD claimants also must suffer from two of these restrictions:
- Difficulty behaving appropriately in social settings
- Problems finishing tasks that require pacing, persistence or prolonged focus
- Limited ability to perform activities of daily living
- Recurring episodes in which symptoms become exacerbated
Applicants can use medical records and assessments from treating physicians to establish the progression of Alzheimer’s. Reports from personal sources, such as family members, can highlight functional restrictions.
People who develop Alzheimer’s before age 65 may qualify for expedited claim processing. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is included on the list of Compassionate Allowances conditions, which are frequently found disabling. Compassionate Allowances claims can be approved quickly and with minimal medical evidence. However, applicants still must prove they meet the criteria listed above.
Receiving an allowance
People who cannot meet these criteria may qualify for medical-vocational allowances, as any disability lawyer in Chicago could explain. These allowances are awarded to people whose impairments stop them from doing the work they are qualified for. The SSA may consider age, education and work history to determine what work a person is qualified to perform.
People who might receive medical-vocational allowances should document all of their physical or mental impairments. The SSA considers the cumulative effects of these impairments when awarding allowances. Consequently, claimants can improve their likelihood of receiving SSD benefits by documenting even conditions that are not independently disabling.