Alisa Brownlee, ATP, CAPS blog offers recent articles and web information on ALS, assistive technology--augmentative alternative communication (AAC), computer access, and other electronic devices that can impact and improve the quality of life for people with ALS.
Any views or opinions presented on this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ALS Association.
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Thursday, June 27, 2013
ALS and Social Security Benefits
Guest blogger: Molly Clarke from Social Security Disability Help
326 A Street, Suite 1A
Boston, MA 02210
857.366.7629 – Direct
617.800.0089 – Office
ALS and Social
Security Disability Benefits
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as
Lou Gehrig’s disease, can significantly weaken the body. When individuals with
ALS begin to experience severe symptoms like muscle cramps, uncontrollable twitching,
difficulty speaking, and trouble breathing and swallowing, it is understandable
that they may no longer be able to work and earn a living. The resulting loss
of income and medical insurance can cause a significant financial burden.
Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers
financial assistance in the form of Social Security Disability benefits to
individuals with ALS who cannot work.The following article will provide you with a brief overview of the
Social Security Disability benefit program and will prepare you to begin the
Disability Technical Requirements
To even be considered for Social Security Disability
benefits, applicants must first meet the SSA’s definition of disability. This
includes meeting the following criteria:
·You cannot do the work you were once able to;
·You cannot adjust to other types of work; and
·Your condition must be expected to last at least
one year or result in death.
The SSA governs two separate programs that offer Social
Security Disability benefits—SSDI and SSI. Each of these programs has its own
set of technical eligibility requirements that applicants must meet in addition
to meeting the SSA’s definition of disability.
SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance, offers
financial assistance to disabled workers. This program is funded by the income
taxes that workers all over the country pay into the system. Eligibility for
SSDI is based on an applicant’s work history. The SSA assigns a certain amount
of “work credits” to each quarter that an individual works and pays taxes. To
qualify, an applicant must have earned enough work credits throughout his
career. Learn more about SSDI and work credits here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssdi/qualify-for-ssdi.
The second program that offers disability benefits is called
Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Eligibility for this program is based on an
applicant’s financial standing rather than their work history. To qualify,
applicants must fall under specific financial limitations and meet the SSA’s
definition of disability. This program is ideal for disabled individuals who
may not have the work credits to qualify for SSDI. Learn more about qualifying
for SSI, here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssi/qualify-for-ssi.
It is important to note that some applicants may qualify for
both SSI and SSDI. Also remember that these programs do not take the place of
health insurance. However, individuals who qualify for SSDI qualify for
Medicare after a two year waiting period.Individuals who qualify for SSI automatically qualify for Medicaid. For
more information about Medicare and Medicaid, visit this page: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/faq/medicare-vs-medicaid.
Typically, it can take months for an initial application to
be processed. The SSA recognizes that individuals with severely disabling
conditions cannot be expected to wait the standard processing times. For this
reason, the SSA started the Compassionate Allowances Program. Through this
program, applicants with serious disabilities can be approved in as little as
Fortunately, ALS does qualify for Compassionate Allowance
processing. However, because there is not a definitive medical exam to
determine whether or not an individual has ALS, it is imperative that you
provide medical documentation to fully support your claim
This medical documentation should include a history of your
symptoms and treatments, neurological exams and reports, as well as test
results that rule out other possible conditions. You should also include a
statement from your doctor describing your condition and how it affects your
ability to work.
Please note that you do not have to fill out additional
forms to qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program. The SSA will
determine whether or not your condition qualifies and will expedite your claim
Applying for Social
Security Disability Assistance When Living With ALS
Once you decide to apply for Social Security Disability
benefits, you can do so online at the SSA’s website or in person at your local
Social Security office.Along with the
necessary medical documentation you should also have financial and work related
records as well.
The Social Security Disability application process can be
long and complicated. Often times, applicants find that their initial
applications are denied. If your application is denied, do not panic. You are
allowed to appeal this decision. Do not give up. Once you are awarded benefits,
you can focus on your health rather than your financial difficulty.
For more information about Social Security Disability
benefits, visit Social Security Disability Help or contact Molly Clarke at