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Angelman Syndrome and Social Security Disability

If you have considered filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the disability programs offered by the Social Security Administration, you may be discouraged due to the high rate denial at the initial stage of application. More than half of all first-time applicants are denied disability benefits, with the process of receiving determination taking anywhere from several months to a year.

In consideration of its growing backlog of open disability cases, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has introduced several reforms to streamline the disability application and determination process. One of these was the implementation of a program known as Compassionate Allowances, which allows applications containing substantial medical proof for disability based on certain diseases and conditions to be processed on a priority basis.

If you or a loved one is has been diagnosed with one of these diseases, you may qualify for a Compassionate Allowance and receive your determination and benefits in as little as a few weeks.

The list of Compassionate Allowance conditions has been updated continuously since 2008 to reflect the identification of new diseases which public hearings and medical research have concluded to meet the qualifications of an allowance. The most recent update went into effect December 2011, and reflects the addition of 13 new Compassionate Allowance diseases.

Angelman Syndrome is one of these.

Angelman Syndrome – Conditions & Symptoms

Angelman Syndrome is a very rare neuro-genetic disorder which occurs when the chromosome 15 is imprinted wrongly, rendering it inactive. It can also result from a gene mutation in that part of the DNA. It is usually diagnosed early on, between 6 to 12 months of age, because of the developmental delay which is almost universally characteristic of the syndrome.

As part of this developmental delay, the child will experience an impairment of speech and will either use few words or communicate only non-verbally. In addition, they will have difficulty moving and balancing. The behavioral characteristics of a child with Angelman Syndrome are also very distinct – a very happy demeanor with frequent smiling and laughing, ecstatic hand movement or ‘flapping’ of the hands, and hyperactivity.

In addition to these core characteristics, children with Angelman will often develop proportionally small heads, and have distinctive facial features, recurring seizures, and abnormal sleep patterns.

Although the initial symptoms of Angelman Syndrome are developmental delays, eventually other symptoms appear and a firm diagnosis will be made based on all symptoms, appearances, medical history, and identification of the dysfunctional chromosome 15 based on genetic tests.

Treatment for Angelman Syndrome varies based on the severity of the condition in the individual. Seizure medication is usually prescribed for those with severe seizures, although the variation in the severity of their seizures often makes it difficult to accurately dose. To improve their sleep, many Angelman Syndrome patients benefit from melatonin, a natural sleep-inducing hormone.

Developmental improvements for those with Angelman syndrome can be made with the use of therapy, although speech problems are usually irreversible. Angelman patients learn to use a variety of non-verbal signals to communicate and are generally better at understanding communication than giving it.

Based on the severity of Angelman Syndrome, most patients are unable to achieve completely independent living, but their impairments do not otherwise hinder their health, allowing them to live normal lifespans.

Your Angelman Syndrome Disability Case

Due to its recognition as a rare genetic and severely disabling disease, Angelman Syndrome is listed by the SSA as a Compassionate Allowance. Since it is extremely unlikely that those with Angelman Syndrome will ever be able to support themselves, claims based on the disease are candidates for a prioritized determination.

If your loved one is applying for Social Security Disability with Angelman Syndrome, they will need medical documentation of the diagnosis from all involved healthcare professionals, including the clinically recognized features as well as genetic tests which show the affected chromosome and/or gene.

Because Angelman Syndrome is a genetic disease which severely stunts development from infancy, it is unlikely that you or your loved one will qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. In order to qualify for SSDI a certain number of work credits and/or years of employment must be met.

It is more likely that Angelman Syndrome would qualify you or your family member for SSI, which is a need-based program that does not require a minimum number of work hours from employment.

Applying for Social Security Disability with a Angelman Syndrome Diagnosis

Qualifying for Social Security Disability can be difficult. With the help of Compassionate Allowances, diseases such as Angelman Syndrome, whose severely debilitating medical factors are clearly established, can be easily identified on applications and processed more quickly through the system.

Even with a Compassionate Allowance, however, it is possible to be rejected for benefits if your information is contradictory or inaccurate in any way. Employing a Social Security Disability lawyer who is experienced in the process of filing for disability will greatly increase your chances of a fast determination with the maximum allowed benefits you deserve.