More than 5 million people currently live with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This degenerative disease causes declines in memory and cognitive ability. Medications may relieve some symptoms, but the disease is progressive and has no known cure. Victims with advanced Alzheimer’s eventually lose awareness of their environments and the ability to look after themselves.
The financial burden of Alzheimer’s can be significant. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the most expensive medical condition in America. Victims and their family members may have to pay for medication, medical attention and caregiving. Victims may be able to reduce this burden by seeking Social Security Disability benefits.
Qualifying for benefits
Alzheimer’s disease is not included in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book of recognized disabling conditions. Victims seeking benefits must prove they have a condition that meets the SSA’s general criteria for disabling organic mental disorders. A qualifying disorder must affect memory, intellectual ability, awareness of time and place, personality or mood. Additionally, the disability must impair the individual’s ability to do at least two of the following things:
- Perform daily activities such as cooking or bathing
- Function in social settings or get along with others
- Maintain concentration and complete tasks
A disability may also qualify if it causes one of these impairments along with repeated, worsening episodes of decompensation. These are defined as intervals in which issues such as memory problems become markedly worse.
To establish that a condition meets the SSA’s requirements, individuals applying for disability benefits must provide extensive documentation. Relevant documents include clinical records, medical evaluations and contact information for all physicians and care providers. Ample documentation to show changes in cognitive performance and abilities over time can improve the likelihood of a condition being recognized as disabling.
People who contract Alzheimer’s after age 65 may not need to apply for SSD benefits if they qualify for Supplemental Security Income. However, individuals older than 65 who were not prepared to retire may choose to apply for SSD benefits instead of SSI.
Victims of early-onset Alzheimer’s, which develops before age 65, qualify for the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances Initiative. This program expedites SSD application processing for individuals with serious disabling conditions. The Compassionate Allowances program directly recognizes early-onset Alzheimer’s as a qualifying condition, but applicants still must provide sufficient documentation of the condition.
For individuals in either age group, the assistance of an attorney can be invaluable. An attorney can help an applicant understand the available benefits and provide appropriate documentation. This improves the likelihood of a claim being approved on the first try, before the disease and its detrimental effects advance further.