Dementia and qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Dementia?
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
When people hear the word dementia, they often think of elderly people with Alzheimer’s, but dementia is actually an umbrella term for a group of disorders and conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language skills, and problem-solving abilities.
Dementia is one of the major causes of disability worldwide, affecting not only the individual, but their families, friends, and caregivers.
Though dementia primarily affects older adults, it is not part of the normal aging process and early onset of the disease can begin when a person is in their 30s, 40s or 50s. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 50 million people have dementia with 10 million new cases each year.
If you have some form of dementia, it is likely you have poor memory and attention skills and are unable to perform any type of work.
The Social Security Administration recognizes dementia as an impairment in two different sections of its Blue Book. Section 12. Mental Disorders evaluates dementia of the Alzheimer type, vascular dementia, and dementia due to a metabolic disease. Section 11. Neurological Disorders evaluates cases of early onset Alzheimer’s disease (onset before the age of 65).
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability Income with a diagnosis of dementia, you must be able to prove that your abilities in one or more of the following areas has declined significantly:
- Remembering and learning
- Using language (being able to recall words and use them properly)
- Paying attention
- Social behavior (being able to display proper behavior in a variety of circumstance)
- Planning and judgment
- Physical coordination
You must also show that you have extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two of the following areas:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information (being able to understand instructions and learn new tasks).
- Interacting with others.
- ;Concentrating, persisting, and maintaining pace (being able to complete tasks).
- Adapting and managing oneself (having practical personal skills).
Social Security will want to see results of any tests that confirm your diagnosis including neuropsychological testing (tests which examines cognitive functioning) and intelligence tests as well as documentation of medical visits and evidence of any hospitalizations.
If your symptoms of dementia have prevented you from working for 12 months or more, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
You can apply for SSDI if you are not currently receiving retirement benefits; once you reach full retirement age, SSDI benefits automatically change to retirement benefits.
Dementia is a progressive syndrome where the ability to process thought deteriorates.
It affects memory, comprehension, orientation, calculation, learning capacity, communication and judgment and is usually accompanied by changes in behavior and emotions. Symptoms differ from person to person depending on the severity of the disease and an individual’s personality before they developed the illness. Dementia can be divided in three stages: early stage, middle stage and late stage.
The early stage is often overlooked because onset of dementia is gradual. Symptoms include:
- getting lost easily
- losing track of time
During the middle stage, symptoms become more obvious and restricting:
- forgetting names or recent events
- increased difficulty communicating
- getting lost at home
- behavioral changes such as wandering off
- needing assistance with personal care
At the late stage of dementia, serious problems with memory and physical signs and symptoms become obvious.
- difficulty recognizing family and friends
- being unaware of place and time
- difficulty walking and requiring assistance with personal care
- Behavior changes, including aggression
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 the effects of Demetia. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease where clumps of proteins known as tangles and plaques build up between nerve cells.
Neurotransmitters which pass signals between cells also decrease. A person may forget the names of family and friends, have difficulty following conversations or get lost easily.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia.
Brain cells require oxygen and nutrients from the blood to function. The vascular system supplies brain tissues with blood via blood vessels. If blood vessels become damaged, oxygen and other nutrients cannot reach the brain and the cells die.
There are three types of vascular dementia:
- Subcortical dementia. The most common form of vascular dementia. The smallest blood vessels in the brain become twisted and stiff, restricting blood flow. This is also called small vessel disease.
- Post-stroke dementia. This type occurs after an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke.
- Single-infarct and multi-infarct dementia. The individual experiences a series of small strokes instead of one severe stroke.
Lewy body dementia occurs when tiny protein deposits called Lewy bodies develop in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement.
Individuals with this type of dementia experience disturbances in attention and alertness and may have visual hallucinations. Other symptoms include rigid muscles, slow movement and tremors.
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes (the area behind the forehead) or temporal lobes (the area behind the ears).
Cells in the frontal and temporal lobes die off and the connecting pathways between lobes are altered. The lobes shrink and lose function. Individuals exhibit changes in behavior and difficulty communicating. This is the mildest type of dementia, appearing most often in people 45 – 65.
When more than one form of the dementia occurs in an individual, the disorder is termed mixed dementia.
This type typically affects people over 75. The individual will experience more symptoms associated with one type of dementia than another. The two most common variations of mixed dementia are Alzheimer’s with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s with Lewy body dementia.
As mentioned earlier, dementia is not part of the normal aging process and several factors can contribute to its development.
- Degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease and some forms of multiple sclerosis.
- Vascular disorders that affect blood circulation in the brain.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Infections of the nervous system such as meningitis or HIV.
- A long history of drug or alcohol abuse.
- Certain forms of hydrocephalus (fluid buildup on the brain).
Diagnosis involves reviewing the medical history of a patient over time and speaking with relatives about behavior changes.
A doctor will most likely order neuropsychological and cognitive tests, brain scans, lab tests and a psychiatric evaluation to confirm diagnosis. Treatment involves treating the cause of dementia, but, unfortunately, only 20% of cases are reversible. Those cases include dementia caused by drug and alcohol abuse, tumors and metabolic disorders, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency. Medications are prescribed to improve and manage symptoms such as depression, sleep disturbances, hallucinations and agitation. Occupational therapy can help a person manage their environment to make their home safer and prevent accidents.
If you have applied for Social Security benefits and been denied, be persistent. Two thirds of initial claims are denied. Most people currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Long Term Disability benefits have had to appeal their case. If you are considering applying for benefits or appealing your denied application, it is recommended that you seek professional representation with ss disability lawyers. The process of appealing can be hard to understand. It makes sense to have someone work alongside you who has been through appeals before, and knows what the Social Security Administration and insurance companies are looking for in an application. The attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed have that knowledge and experience. Call today 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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