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Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Social Security Disability

As the Baby Boomer generation reaches full retirement age, there has been a significant increase in the demand for aging-related healthcare and disability programs. In addition to retirement, however, the SSA’s disability insurance program has become increasingly overwhelmed by the flood of applications from this generation, a phenomenon which is not helped by the recent economic downturn and pressure for reform and budget cuts within the SSA.

Just because there are more cases to process with fewer resources does not mean applicants should be forced to wait months at a time for a benefits determination. In one of the many reforms the SSA has implemented to answer this dilemma, a program known as the Compassionate Allowances initiative was formed in 2008.

This program initially included a handful of qualifying diseases and conditions, but as of 2011 has grown to 113. These diseases have been determined through medical resources and public hearings to be the most disabling and therefore most qualifying for Social Security Disability in most cases.

Since 2008, the program has helped to not only solve the SSA’s need to process more cases more quickly, but to identify and bring relief to those who are most qualified. Because of Compassionate Allowances, many of the older generation are receiving the help they need to live a better life in spite of their obstacles.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy – Conditions & Symptoms

Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a degenerative condition in which tissues in the brain stem and frontal lobe area become dysfunctional and eventually unusable. The cause for this condition, which usually appears in those over the age of 60, is still unknown, although there is inconclusive evidence that genetic factors may play a part in its likelihood of occurrence.

The most common initial signs of progressive supranuclear palsy are balance problems, inability to control gait speed, and frequent falls. These symptoms are almost identical to Parkinson’s disease, which often results in early misdiagnosis. Another early symptom which can distinguish progressive supranuclear palsy from Parkinson’s is a unique vision problem – the inability to look up or down without moving the head. This is caused from the buildup of tissue in the part of the brain which controls eye movement. Other vision problems may include involuntary eye movement and inability to focus.

The frontal lobe area of the brain which is affected by PSP is the part which controls voluntary movement, speech, thought, cognitive function, and emotional reactions. Consequently, PSP victims will usually experience symptoms of dementia, cognitive loss, speech difficulty, and changes to personality or behavior.

The brain stem is the other area of the brain which suffers degeneration in PSP, controlling autonomic functions in the body such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, and digestion. These functions may be impaired, causing further complications and symptoms such as fainting and dizziness, sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, difficulty retaining body heat, incontinence, constipation, or urinary problems.

The cognitive dysfunction which is caused by PSP may be confused with Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages. Because of its frequent confusion with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, impaired eye movement may be the determining symptom.

PSP cannot be cured, and it doesn’t usually response to treatments which are used for Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Drugs which improve cognitive function have been tested for use with PSP, but results are still inconclusive. Rehabilitation treatments such as speech therapy and mobility re-training are often useful in helping patients regain at least a portion of their former abilities.

Applying for Social Security Disability with a Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Diagnosis

Progressive supranuclear palsy can be extremely disabling due to a loss of motor, cognitive and communication abilities, with a survival rate of up to 7 years after diagnosis. Filing for Social Security Disability may be a necessary step as the disease progresses.

When you apply for Social Security Disability with a PSP diagnosis, your request for benefits will be processed as a Compassionate Allowance. The SSA’s guidelines for a qualifying progressive supranuclear palsy diagnosis include the following medical documentation:

  • An assessment of your balance and walking abilities
  • An assessment of your cognitive skills, particularly memory
  • An eye examination, looking for inability to move eyes up or down
  • MRI scans

Ensuring that your medical professional has systematically ruled out Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or anything similar is important to ensuring your diagnosis is accurate, not only to qualify for a Compassionate Allowance, but for your own proper medical treatment. Because of the similarities of PSP and other conditions, examination by a specialist in things kinds of diseases is recommended.

Any other relevant information to your disability is helpful to your determination; however, since PSP is a Compassionate Allowance condition, its clinical diagnosis is the most important factor.

Your Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Disability Case

Facing the disabling effects of a degenerative condition such as progressive supranuclear palsy is extremely life-altering. With the help of a Compassionate Allowance Social Security Disability determination, and a reputable disability lawyer, you can receive the benefits you need in as little as a few weeks.