Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that affects the brain, causing problems with thinking, memory, and behavior. The majority of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease are over 65, but early-onset Alzheimer’s can develop in people as young as 40. Experts suggest that around 5.1 million Americans may currently have AD.
AD is a progressive disease, meaning that it worsens over time - and there is currently no cure. Although symptoms can be managed to some degree through the use of medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes, AD is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, killing around 100,000 people each year.
Scientists continue to study AD, and supporters aim to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease as well as generate funds to be used for research by declaring November Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
Many people who have Alzheimer’s disease are unable to work. If they’re ineligible for Social Security retirement benefits, they may apply for Social Security Disability. If you or a loved one is applying for Social Security Disability due to Alzheimer’s disease, below are 5 things you need to know:
- To be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you need to meet certain requirements in terms of having worked enough years, and recently enough, to qualify for coverage. Although not always the case, the general rule is that to be covered for SSDI benefits, you need to have worked for five out of the last ten years. If you’re not eligible for SSDI benefits, you could be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. There are no work requirements for SSI, but there are strict income and asset limits. Your local Social Security office can assist you in determining eligibility for SSDI or SSI benefits.
- The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently added early-onset Alzheimer’s disease to its list of “Compassionate Allowance” conditions. This means that those with a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s qualify for expedited processing of their disability claims. It’s important to make the SSA aware from the beginning if you have this exact diagnosis.
- If there’s no early-onset Alzheimer's diagnosis, you could still be eligible for benefits. This will require providing medical records that shows that you’re unable to perform essentially any job duties on a full-time basis. The SSA will want to see evidence of symptoms such as memory loss, speech and behavioral problems, and impairments in things like problem-solving ability and recognition.
- One of the most important things that you can do to help your Social Security claim is to have a supportive doctor. The SSA puts much weight into the opinion of a claimant’s treating physician. Having a long-term treating relationship with a doctor who is willing to complete a form or write a statement supporting the claim for disability can be extremely beneficial to any disability claim.
- The Social Security Disability process can take a very long time. Unless the Compassionate Allowance criteria are met, it’s not uncommon for a claim to be pending throughout the SSA’s appeals process for two years or more. It is therefore very important to apply for benefits as soon as possible, and to take every action you can to get your claim approved at the initial level so that the appeals process can be avoided entirely. This could include providing the SSA with all relevant medical records, following up with the SSA claims adjudicator who’s handling the claim, obtaining statements from treating physicians, and hiring a qualified Social Security Disability attorney to assist you.