Alzheimer’s disease and filing for SSDI
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
People sometimes joke about having a “senior moment,” but Alzheimer’s disease is a serious condition that can even affect people younger than 65. More than six million Americans 65 and older have Alzheimer’s and approximately five percent develop symptoms before age 65. Early onset Alzheimer’s can affect people in their 30s or 40s, though most people who develop this type of Alzheimer’s disease are in their 40s or 50s. Social Security includes early-onset Alzheimer’s disease as a disabling impairment in its Blue Book under Section 11 Neurological so those with the disease may qualify for disability benefits or SSDI.
The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes a decline in thinking and behavioral skills and eventually prevents a person from functioning independently.
In the beginning stages a person may forget names, recent events or conversations, but as the disease progresses the person loses the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Loss of brain function can lead to dehydration, malnutrition and infection.
Everyone at one time or another forgets the name of a person, a place or an event, but people with Alzheimer’s disease will exhibit more pronounced symptoms, such as:
- Forgetting conversations or appointments;
- Misplacing objects and putting them in illogical places; for example, leaving keys in the refrigerator;
- Getting lost in familiar areas;
- Repeating statements over and over;
- Having trouble remembering the correct words to identify objects;
- Forgetting the names of family members or objects;
- Having trouble expressing thoughts and feelings;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather;
- Forgetting how to dress or bath;
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Alzheimer’s disease can also affect a person’s moods and behaviors.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may suffer from depression, apathy or mood swings. They may be suspicious of others, become irritable or aggressive, or even have delusional thoughts.
The cause of Alzheimer’s involves a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that result in changes in the brain.
Proteins in the brain that do not function properly disrupt the work of brain cells and the brain cells die. Damage usually begins in the part of the brain that controls memory years before the first signs of the disease appear; loss of brain cells then spreads to other parts of the brain.
Though Alzheimer’s is not a sign of normal aging, as people get older they are more likely to develop the disease. Other risk factors include:
- A family history of Alzheimer’s. If a person has a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s, their chances of developing the disease are greater.
- Down syndrome. This is likely related to people with Down syndrome having three copies of chromosome 21.
- Traumatic brain injury.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is a decline in memory and thinking skills that doesn’t prevent a person from functioning at work or in social situations.
- Poor sleep habits.
- Air pollution. Exposure to traffic exhaust and burning wood speeds degeneration of the nervous system.
- Gender. There is little difference between men and women developing Alzheimer’s, but women seem more likely to develop the disease because women live longer.
- Lifestyle. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, or another medical condition like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes can increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Diagnosis is made through physical and neurological exams and a variety of tests, including laboratory tests, MRIs, CT scans, and brain imaging.
Treatment typically involves medications to alleviate memory and cognitive problems and making adaptations to the person’s living environment to meet their needs. Medications can also help with depression and behavioral symptoms.
How do you qualify for SSDI if you have Alzheimer’s disease?
Most people develop Alzheimer’s when they are over 65 and are too old to apply for Social Security disability benefits, but they may qualify for Social Security retirement benefits or SSI.
However, if an applicant is under 65, they may want to apply for Social Security Disability Income. Social Security includes early-onset Alzheimer’s disease as a disabling impairment in its Blue Book under Section 11 Neurological.
Which neurological disorders does the SSA evaluate under these listings?
They evaluate epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, coma or persistent vegetative state (PVS), and neurological disorders that cause disorganization of motor function, bulbar and neuromuscular dysfunction, communication impairment, or a combination of limitations in physical and mental functioning such as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
In order to be approved for disability benefits, an applicant must be able to prove that their abilities have declined in one or more of the following:
- Learning and remembering
- Paying attention and listening
- Recalling words, using language appropriately
- Planning and judgement
- Physical coordination
- Exhibiting appropriate social behavior in different circumstances.
Additionally, the applicant must have an extreme limitation in one of the following OR a marked (severe) limitation in two of the following:
- Understanding and using information; for example, understanding instructions and learning new tasks;
- Focusing on tasks and completing tasks in a timely manner;
- Managing oneself (personal skills, recognizing safety hazards and staying safe;
- Interacting with others in a socially acceptable manner.
Alzheimer’s is included in Social Security’s list of Compassionate Allowance Conditions which means Social Security will fast-track the application process; you will not have to worry about going through denial or appeal procedures.
Most applicants qualify within one month, but you must be sure to note on your application, or tell the Social Security representative, that you qualify under a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Social Security will want to see:
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of all your healthcare providers
- Detailed list of medications including who prescribed them and why
- Medical records from each of your healthcare providers detailing the progressive decline of your condition
- Results from standardized tests such as the Clinical Dementia Rating or Mini-Mental State Exam
- You should also include how dementia is impacting your ability to take care of your daily needs like grocery shopping, cooking, personal hygiene. An ADL (Activities of Daily Living) report will cover most of this information. This is a questionnaire that includes questions like “Do you cook your own food?”; “Do you need help getting dressed?”
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be stressful and confusing, and you should ask a family member, friend, or caretaker to assist you in the application process.
Even better, consult a qualified disability attorney who can guide you along the way. A lawyer who is knowledgeable and experienced in Social Security procedures can help you gather the documentation you need, prevent mistakes and delays, and increase your chances for success.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
If you have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and you are no longer able to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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