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ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex and Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration’s struggle to process the overwhelming number of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in recent years has forced its leadership to re-evaluate the disability determination process and make major changes in order to streamline the process. One of the most pressing needs has been to expedite those cases which most obviously qualify for disability – rare, severely debilitating, and fatal diseases.

The answer to this need was the formation of the Compassionate Allowance program in 2008, an initiative headed by Commissioner Michael Astrue and assisted by field studies, the general public, and disease associations. Based on their studies, the SSA designed a program in which applications based on one of the Compassionate Allowances are given determinations using an expedited process. This ensures that those who are in the greatest need, as already established by the well-documented severity of their disease or condition, are able to receive the benefits they need in as little as a few weeks to a month, versus the former 6-18 month wait.

If you have been diagnosed with ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex, a severely disabling condition newly listed as a Compassionate Allowance by the SSA, you may qualify for no-hassle processing and be able to receive your benefits much sooner than others who apply.

ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex – Conditions & Symptoms

ALS, or Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, is a well-known degenerative nerve disease which also became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in 1939. ALS specifically affects the motor nerves in the body located in the brain and spinal cord, those which provide movement of the skeletal muscles in either the upper or lower region of the body. As the motor neurons deteriorate, so does one’s ability to perform voluntary movement, often leading to total paralysis of the limbs, inability to speak, and eventually to breathe.

Diagnosis of ALS is often late because the symptoms are gradual and may be mistaken for other less serious diseases. ALS usually surfaces as muscle weakness, cramping, fatigue, and stiffness of the limbs. It is most diagnosed in men and women of all races between the ages of 40 and 70, with an increase in the likelihood for developing the disease as people get older. There is still very little known about what exactly causes this degenerative neurological disease, and if there are any key genetic factors.

In later stages of ALS, other body systems may show signs of deterioration, as well, and result in complex diagnoses. Dementia is diagnosed in a small percentage of ALS patients, resulting in memory loss and diminished cognitive function. Dementia may be difficult to diagnose since some ALS patients lose their ability to communicate and provide the means of assessing their mental capabilities. In recent years, however, an increasing number of cases of frontotemporal dementia have been identified in ALS patients.

A rare form of ALS which occurs almost exclusively in Western Pacific natives is known as ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex. Those who are diagnosed with this complex show symptoms of both Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological disease of the central nervous system which affects movement and gait, as well as Dementia, which is often associated with advanced stages of Parkinson’s. The combination of ALS and Parkinson’s symptoms are very rare, and only know to occur in this condition.

There is no cure for ALS, rendering it a very fatal disease. If treated in a timely manner, 50% of those which ALS survive up to 5 years after diagnosis. The long-term survival rates of those diagnosed with ALS has increased in recent years, with the development of a drug known as Riluzole in 1995, proven to increase the life expectancy of ALS patients by several months.

Your ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex Disability Case

Receiving a swift determination for Social Security Disability with ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex became easier in December 2011 when this disease was added to the SSA’s list of Compassionate Allowances.

ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex is a rare form of ALS which is almost exclusively found in the Western Pacific, although a few cases have been documented elsewhere. If you are not from this region but are claiming such a diagnosis, you should ensure your medical documentation is solid. Since the disease is difficult to diagnose, it is recommended by the ALS Association that you seek examination by an ALS expert who has extensive experience diagnosing ALS.

Medical proof you present to the SSA for ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Complex must clearly diagnose the disease. There is no one conclusive test; rather, when diagnosing ALS, medical professionals use a variety of tests including EMG, NCV (Nerve Conductivity Velocity), x-rays, spinal taps, urine and blood tests, nerve biopsies, and the patient’s medical history.

In addition to a conclusive medical diagnosis, your application must clearly indicate you meet all the other general criteria in order to be considered for a Compassionate Allowance.

Applying for Social Security Disability with an ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia Diagnosis

With the provision of Compassionate Allowances, your ALS/Parkinsonism Dementia case will be quickly identified by the SSA’s processing system as meeting the qualifications for disability benefits. While this ensures a faster determination process, the assistance of an attorney who practices SSDI will further increase your chances of acceptance and approval as quickly as possible so you can receive the benefits you need.