Disability and Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
Disability can disrupt the most carefully laid plans. People typically hit their peak professionally in their 40s and 50s, and most do not think about diseases associated with old age since retirement and slowing down still seems far off. One of the most insidious and debilitating conditions that can rob a person of their health and livelihood is early onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a tragic disease regardless of the age of the person affected, but it is particularly traumatic for younger sufferers since they may have families to support and businesses that depend on them. Alzheimer’s strikes most people starting at age 65, but for a small amount of people, approximately five percent, the disease can come to those in their 40s and 50s. Alzheimer’s completely stops a person’s life as the brain becomes less and less functional, and shortens a person’s life span. If the person afflicted is the family breadwinner, the financial impact is especially severe, and turning to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to seek an alternative source of financial support is an option often pursued. Given the devastating effects of this condition, the Social Security Administration (SSA) lists early-onset Alzheimer’s as a disease eligible for the Compassionate Allowance Initiative (CAL), which fast tracks certain diseases for quick review and approval. An overview of the program generally, and what the SSA looks for in claims based on early-onset Alzheimer’s, will follow below.
Compassionate Allowance Program
The SSA recognizes that certain conditions are so severe that disability is a foregone conclusion if a person is diagnosed with one. To help those dealing with these devastating illnesses receive benefits sooner, there is a program within the SSDI called the compassionate allowance program. Essentially, the SSA screens every application for certain conditions, and if one appears, the application is flagged for faster processing, which shortens approval to a matter of weeks instead of months or years. Part of the reason particular conditions were selected for inclusion within this program, in addition to the disabling effects each causes, is that diagnosis of these conditions tend to be standardized and fairly definitive. Though, early-onset Alzheimer’s is an outlier in this respect. Thus, reviewing the medical records by the SSA is usually quick and easy compared to other conditions. In addition, the work and education history portion of a disability application is eliminated for individuals with a condition on the CAL list to make the process a little easier. Note that the CAL is not separate from the SSDI process, and is simply integrated into the screening procedure used in all SSDI applications. Further, a person suffering from a condition on the CAL list will still receive the same monthly benefits as any other SSDI recipient. It is simply intended to speed up the decision process.
Evaluation of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s SSDI Claims
While applicants listing a CAL-recognized condition will get quicker attention, there still must be sufficient medical evidence supporting the diagnosis before the SSA will approve the disability claim. Unlike many of the conditions on the CAL list, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s cannot be confirmed without a brain biopsy or other postmortem examination. Consequently, lots of documentation from a person’s treating physician will be necessary to getting approval. This documentation must include evidence of progressive dementia, which unfortunately takes time to gather, so a diagnosis could take years. Psychological tests of cognitive functions and imaging of a person’s brain over a period of time to show changes to brain function also support a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Additionally, reports of changes in the person’s daily activities by family members or caregivers are also crucial to the approval of the SSDI application.
Get Legal Help
If you or a loved one is facing early-onset Alzheimer’s, work with a disability insurance attorney to ensure your application is processed and approved as quickly as possible. An attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to convince the SSA, and hopefully alleviate some of the stress of the SSDI process. Farrell Disability Law focuses on helping clients get the disability benefits they are entitled to receive, and is available to help you with your claim. If you live in Jacksonville, Atlantic Beach, Doctors Inlet or the surrounding areas, contact the office to schedule a free consultation.