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Progressive Bulbar Palsy and Social Security Disability

Progressive Bulbar Palsy (PBP) is a motor neuron disease, which attacks neurons in the brain stem. The brain stem is responsible for functions like swallowing, speaking and other body movements around the neck and base of the skull. Neurons in this region begin to degenerate and can cause jaw weakness, loss of tongue muscle function, and speech loss. PBP often leads to choking, pneumonia, and eventually, respiratory failure, which is a major cause of death for those with the disease.

While the cause of PBP is unknown, the disease is diagnosed via neurological testing, including neural imaging, and physical examination of symptoms, such as speech trouble or uncontrollable laughing or crying, to see if they are in line with the condition's progression. Symptoms usually worsen with age, and those affected usually begin to express the symptoms between the ages of fifty and seventy years of age. Because the condition is degenerative, the prognosis for PBP is fairly poor. There is no cure for PBP, though specialists can address specific symptoms to make the individual more comfortable and keep them able to move their body for as long as possible. There are several medications available that can alleviate fatigue and ease swallowing difficulties.

Medical Eligibility

The most common way to qualify for Social Security disability benefits is by matching or equaling a listing in a guidebook called the blue book. The blue book contains technical medical criteria for any condition the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers potentially disabling. An individual can qualify by meeting all the requirements under the listing for their condition, or if it is not listed by name, they may match a listing of one of their symptoms.

Qualifying for and receiving Social Security disability benefits can be a lengthy process. Sometimes, especially with conditions like PBP, the individual cannot always afford to wait for months or even years at a time for their claim to be processed.

The SSA's solution to this problem was to develop a list of conditions, all of which are very aggressive and clearly disabling, which are eligible for an expedited application process. This way, they can begin to receive benefits sooner based on minimal objective medical information. The is called the compassionate allowances program.

PBP is one of many serious medical conditions listed as eligible for compassionate allowances.

The Application Process

Though the compassionate allowance application is expedited, is not a separate program from Social Security disability benefits, and the application process itself remains the same. You can begin the application by filling out the forms yourself online, or by seeking an interview with the SSA.

In preparation, you should make sure to have any medical information that might help your claim. This could mean notice of hospitalizations and other medical visits, therapies, and results from any neurological tests. A diagnosis is important but will not always be enough for you to qualify.

If the application is incomplete, or the SSA does not feel you presented the information in a way that shows you are disabled, your application may be denied. This happens to many first time applicants, but it is not the end of the road. You are allowed to appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving the denial and may be able to be awarded benefits that way.