Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder which kills brain cells, causing memory loss and cognitive decline. The condition may be mild at first, but unfortunately, if you or someone you love has a neurodegenerative type of dementia, you can expect the condition to get progressively worse.
Who do you know with Alzheimers?
Health Day News reported on Tuesday this week that a new study suggests that one in three seniors now dies while suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. According to reports, Alzheimers disease rose 68 percent from 2000 to 2010, while death from other types of diseases such as AIDS and heart disease are on the decline.
Memory loss is not uncommon as claimants age. In fact, many people, as they age, may loss the ability to recall past events or experience a small degree of forgetfulness. If you have difficulty learning new things or retraining information you may simply be experiencing mild memory loss or it could be an indication of something more severe such as Alzheimers.
Claimants with a “normal” degree of memory loss will have difficulty proving that they cannot do some type of work. This will be especially true for young claimants. Claimants with severe memory loss, however, may be able to prove that their ability to work has been so substantially reduced that they can win Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Alzheimer’s Disease and SSDI and SSI
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative neurological condition which can be progressive, eventually leading to loss of the ability for many individuals to care for themselves. It can cause short-term memory loss, incontinence or the inability to solve problems. Some Alzheimer’s patients may become so disoriented that they can get lost and eventually have to be moved to a full care facility.
It is unclear what causes Alzheimer’s disease, although it is assumed that there are some genetic factors which may make certain individuals more prone to this condition. Common symptoms of the disease can include:
- Loss of memory which results in repetitive statements.
- Inability to remember family members
- Disorientation and misinterpreting spatial relationships
- Difficulty writing and identifying words
- Inability to think or reason effectively
- Lack of decision making ability and judgment
- Inability to perform and plan tasks
- Changes in an individual’s personality
Winning SSDI or SSI for Alzheimer’s Disease
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has several methods for determining whether a claimant is disabled and unable to work. They maintain a list of all conditions and symptoms which they consider disabling (SSA Listing of Impairments), and if your condition is so severe your condition and symptoms meet or exceed a listing you may be automatically approved for SSDI or SSI benefits, assuming you meet the nonmedical requirements of either program.
The SSA also has a program called the Compassionate Allowance Program. If you have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, you may qualify for Compassionate Allowance (CAL) which allows the SSA to quickly identify conditions they can approve based on a minimal amount of objective medical information.
The good news for claimants with Alzheimer’s Disease is if their condition is considered severe enough to meet the Compassionate Allowance Program requirements than claimants may be approved immediately and by-pass some of the hassle and extended waiting many other claimants experience.
Proving disability through a medical vocational allowance for Alzheimer’s Disease
For those claimants who do not meet the requirements of the Compassionate Allowance Program they may be able to win SSDI or SSI if they are able to prove that their condition does not allow them to work.
For instance, claimants with Alzheimer’s Disease may experience extreme memory impairment, disorientation, a change in personality, disturbances in thinking (e.g., hallucinations, delusions), emotional disturbances (e.g., explosive temper outbursts, sudden crying, etc.) or loss of intellect and if the claimant can prove that these symptoms severely interfere with their social functioning, their ability to maintain concentration, persistence, or pace or they have had repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration, they may be able to prove that work is not possible.
- When will I get my disability benefits? (disabilitybenefitshome.com)
Millions of Americans are diagnosed with various cognitive disorders each year. Cognitive disorders can include a variety of conditions which affect an individual’s ability to process information, to learn, to solve problems or to remember.
A loss of cognitive ability is common as claimant’s age, but any condition which is severe can affect a claimant’s ability to perform work. Common conditions which can cause cognitive dysfunction include amnesia, dementia (Alzheimers) or delirium.
Common types of Cognitive Disorders
The medical community generally classifies cognitive disorder into three categories:
Delirium can be grouped into hypoactive or hyperactive. Patients with hypoactive delirium are generally nonresponsive. Patients with hyperactive delirium may be angry or hostile. Most types of delirium are temporary and are commonly caused by mild anemia, mild hypoxia or mild hyponatremia.
Dementia is the inability to remember or to learn. This condition is most common in the elderly but can also occur in younger claimants who suffer a stroke, heart attack or severe brain injury.
Amnesia occurs if a claimant does not have the ability to remember events or learn new information. Common causes include substance abuse, exposure to toxins, alcohol abuse, brain trauma or Wernicke- Korsakoff’s syndrome.
The three most common cognitive disorders are listed above but there are also a variety of other conditions which are not classified (Cognitive Disorders NOS – Not otherwise specified).
Winning SSDI or SSI for Cognitive Disorders
The SSA has two methods to determine if a claimant is so disabled they qualify for SSI or SSDI benefits. First, the SSA will determine if their condition is listed on the SSA Listing of Impairments (a list of all the conditions and symptoms the SSA considers automatically disabling). If the claimant’s condition is not on the SSA Listing of Impairments (also known as the Blue Book) the claimant will have to prove they do not have enough residual capacity to work through a medical vocational allowance.
Meeting a Listing for Cognitive Disorders
Cognitive disorders can be caused by a variety of conditions. To win benefits for a cognitive disorder by meeting a listing the claimant must show that their condition and symptoms are severe as another condition on the list.
For instance, severe head trauma can cause amnesia or dementia and would be evaluated under listing 11.00 Neurological. Other cognitive disorders would have symptoms similar to mental health disorders which would be evaluated under 12.00 Mental Disorders.
Most claimants who have a cognitive disorder will not meet a listing and will have to prove that they cannot work through a medical vocational allowance.
Winning SSI or SSDI through a Medical Vocational Allowance
To determine if a SSI or SSDI claimant can win benefits through a medical vocational allowance the SSA will evaluate the work effort needed to perform their work. They will also determine the residual capacity the claimant has to work based on their age, education, work history, and health condition.
Claimants should have their doctors clearly document their cognitive problems. For instance, does the claimant have poor concentration, memory or difficulty completing tasks? For instance, claimants who have had a severe head trauma may have impaired attention, concentration or intellectual functioning. If this is clearly documented the claimant can argue that they are unable to work many potential jobs.
If your condition does not meet a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments you may need to talk to a disability lawyer and have them review your medical records to identify what additional medical information you will need to win your SSI or SSDI claim.
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