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 application process.


Social Security 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:


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:


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:


Compassionate Allowances Program

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 ten days.


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 accordingly.


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


  1. Thank you for the post! Just a few things I would like to add.

    The article mentions a two year wait for Medicare. That two year wait is waived for those with ALS.

    Also, the article does not mention it, but there is still a five month wait from the "date of disability" (usually the day you stop working) before SSDI payments begin and Medicare becomes effective.


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