Posterior Cortical Atrophy

The effects of advanced posterior cortical atrophy are so severe that they may qualify for a compassionate allowance from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Compassionate allowances can shorten the time it takes for the sufferer of posterior cortical atrophy to receive disability benefits. 

What is Posterior Cortical Atrophy?  

Posterior cortical atrophy is a poorly understood visual or atypical variant of Alzheimer’s disease in which deterioration and atrophy of the posterior cortex occurs negatively affecting visual acuity and visual processing. The causes of posterior cortical atrophy are little known, and, like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, symptoms only gradually develop making it difficult to positively diagnose. 


What is a Compassionate Allowance?  

It can take several months before the SSA makes a decision about an application for disability benefits. In many cases, an application for benefits is denied and the applicant is then forced to appeal the decision. The delays are most often caused by an assessment made that the evidence supplied by the applicant does not match the SSA’s definition of a severe disability (i.e., a severe enough disabling condition). 

The SSA does acknowledge that certain conditions, like posterior cortical atrophy, are so severe that (1) they reduce the remaining life span the patient has left, or (2) are unable to respond to available treatment. In these situations, the compassionate allowance program allows for the processing time of a disability benefits application to be accelerated. With a compassionate allowance for posterior cortical atrophy, benefits may be approved in days or weeks rather than months. 

Medical evidence must still be presented to establish a positive diagnosis of posterior cortical atrophy. This is not an easy task as symptoms by themselves rarely prove that damage to the posterior cortex has occurred. Analysis of neurological examination is necessary before positive diagnosis is established. 

Medical Evidence for Posterior Cortical Atrophy 

The SSA’s Blue Book lists the evidence that must be available to establish that the criteria for disability benefits approval through the compassionate allowance program have been met. Symptoms of posterior cortical atrophy that may help to identify the condition include: 

  • alexia (impaired ability to read);
  • anxiety; and
  • apraxia (disorder of movement planning);
  • blurred vision; 
  • dementia;
  • depression;
  • difficulty reading; 
  • issues with depth perception;
  • light sensitivity;
  • trouble navigating through space; and
  • visual hallucinations. 

Clinical examination of the sufferer’s brain is normally a precondition for diagnosis of posterior cortical atrophy, including the following assessments:

  • assessment of medical history and results of a physical exam; 
  • careful observation in relation to PCA symptoms; and
  • neuroimaging (including both MRI and CAT scans) showing atrophy affecting occipital, parietal, and posterior temporal lobes bilaterally, many with more severe change on the right. 

Get Help With Your Posterior Cortical Atrophy SSD Claim 

Posterior cortical atrophy is a severely disabling condition with no known treatment available. The deterioration in visual acuity and processing in addition to other neurological functions is usually progressive, resulting in an inability to continue working and completing everyday activities. The SSA may speed up approval of disability benefits through the compassionate allowance program. A disability attorney can help an applicant submit sufficient evidence to support their application for benefits—ultimately providing them with a better chance of getting approved for disability benefits. 

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