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Huntingtons disease and SSA Disability Benefits

According to the Mayo Clinic, Huntington’s disease is a condition which causes the nerves in the brain to degenerate causing a broad array of symptoms such as cognitive disorders, psychiatric conditions and motor difficulties. The condition most often strikes claimants who are in their late 40s or 50s but can be found in younger claimants. Claimants with Huntington’s disease may experience mild or severe symptoms. As the condition progresses it is likely that the claimant will lack the ability to continue to perform full-time employment.

Common Symptoms of Huntington’s disease

As mentioned above, the types of symptoms and conditions that a claimant with this condition experiences can vary. General symptoms include:

  1. Loss of speech

  2. Difficulty swallowing

  3. Rigid muscles

  4. Inability to perform fine motor movements

  5. Loss of focus

  6. Inability to plan and organize

  7. Inability to retain and learn new information

  8. Fatigue

  9. Depression, bipolar disorder, mania and OCD

  10. Loss of appetite

  11. Insomnia

  12. Difficulty concentrating

Winning SSDI or SSI for Huntington’s Disease

Claimants may win Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Huntington’s disease either by meeting the listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments or by proving they no longer have the residual capacity to perform substantial gainful activity through the SSA medical vocational allowance process.

Meeting a Listing for Huntington’s Disease in the SSA Listing of Impairments and winning SSI or SSDI

The SSA does have a listing for Huntington’s Disease under Listing 11.00 Neurological, Section 11.17 Degenerative Disease (not listed elsewhere). Claimants with Huntington’s Disease can evaluate the list and determine if their condition “meets or exceeds” this listing.

Under this listing the claimant must prove their condition causes a “disorganization of motor functions with significant and persistent loss of motor function in two extremities, resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station” or the condition has caused chronic brain syndrome.

The SSA will evaluate the claimant’s chronic brain syndrome symptoms under 12.02 which is the organic mental disorders listing, and the SSA will evaluate the claimant’s psychological or behavioral abnormalities associated with a dysfunction of the brain (disorientation to time and place, memory impairment, changes in personality, mood disturbances, emotional issues such as explosive temper and loss of measured intellectual ability).

The SSA would expect that these issues would interfere with the claimant’s social functioning, their ability to concentrate, and/or their activities of daily living.

Given the complexity of the listing, claimants may need to either consult with their doctors or contact a disability lawyer to verify that their medical records contain information which proves they meet this listing.

Winning SSDI or SSI for Huntington’s Disease through a medical vocational allowance

Claimants whose condition does not meet a listing will have to prove that they do not have the residual ability to continue to work. This will be easier for older claimants, especially those who have been performing heavy labor or who have limited education. The SSA is likely to determine that these claimants will not be able to work their current job, previous jobs or retrain for new work and assuming the claimant meets the nonmedical requirements for SSDI or SSI they would be awarded disability benefits.
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