After reading my last blog post about Alzheimer’s disease vs. Dementia, Molly Clarke a social media coordinator for Social Security Disability Help, * – a website that helps individuals apply for Social Security Disability(SSD) or appeal a denial – contacted me and inquired whether she could provide some general information about applying for SSD. SSD is an entitlement individuals with disabilities, those diagnosed with a terminal illness and/or family caregivers should know about. Below are some responses to questions I asked her which I thought would be helpful for individuals and families helping someone with Alzheimer's disease.
Ms. Valentin: Why should an individual who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or his/her family consider apply for Social Security Disability benefits?
Ms. Clarke: A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, especially early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, is often followed by a flood of questions—How will this change my life? Will I be able to support myself and my family if I can no longer work? Am I going to be able to afford my care?
Social Security Disability benefits can help alleviate some of the financial barriers a family may be facing - especially if they can no longer work. If you meet the criteria to apply for benefits, then the benefits paid can be used for everyday living expenses, medical needs, supportive care, etc.
Since Alzheimer’s disease most commonly affects individuals over the age of 65, the majority of individuals who suffer from the condition are already at or near retirement age. This means that they can choose to apply for early retirement benefits or Old Age/retirement benefits instead of disability benefits.
Early onset Alzheimer’s disease, however, occurs at a significantly earlier age—typically in the 40s or 50s- and affects about 5% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. If you or a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a younger age, applying for Social Security Disability benefits to cover everyday living other expenses should be greatly considered as it generally affects an individuals’ ability to earn a gainful living.
Ms. Valentin: What does the Social Security Disability application process look like?
Ms. Clarke: The typical Social Security Disability application process is comprised of several stages and can take months or even years to receive a final decision. Listed below are the different steps receiving disability benefits can entail:
Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recently added early onset Alzheimer’s disease to the Compassionate Allowances program. Under the compassionate allowances program, applicants with particularly severe conditions can have their application approved in as little as ten days.
Whether applying through the standard application process or through the Compassionate Allowances program, you will need substantial medical records and documentation to back up your claim. This can include hospital records, medical testing, personal notes from a doctor, lists of medication, etc. Without this medical evidence your application can be delayed or even denied.
Ms. Valentin: What should someone do if his/her application for disability benefits is denied?
Ms. Clarke: If an application is initially denied for any reason, as stated a before, you can file an appeal. If your case was originally reviewed under the Compassionate Allowances program, it will retain priority status throughout the appeal’s processes as well. In other words, once an application is designated as a Compassionate Allowances claim, it is approved for expedited review at all stages, including any appeals.
To ensure that an application has the best possible outcome, individuals should consider retaining the services of a qualified attorney or advocate. A legal professional will know the ins and outs of the application process and will be able to help collect and fill out any documentation an individual needs in order to be approved.
*Disclaimer: Social Security Disability Help is an advertising services that is paid by the lawyers and advocates whose names are provided in response to people who request assistance. It is not an attorney referral services and is in no way affiliated with the Social Security Administration.
Do you have any questions about Social Security disability or stories you would like to share regarding you/your family’s process of applying? If so, please share them below.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.