GUEST POST

My thanks to Molly Clarke for this posting which I believe, based on my contact with many people on this journey, will be very helpful. LJ

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Alzheimer’s Disease and Social Security Disability Benefits

Molly Clarke is the Social Media Coordinator for Social Security Disability Help and regularly contributes to the Social Security Disability Help blog. Molly can be reached by email at mac@ssd-help.org.

Caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease can impact every part of a person’s life. While it is relatively well known that caregiving can be stressful at times, many people don’t understand the financial impact of caring for another person. Whether the person you are caring for is a parent, sibling, or distant relative, it is likely that you want what is best for him or her. Without financial stability, this can be quite difficult to do.

If you are caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer support their needs, you may be able to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits on his or her behalf. Before starting the SSD process it is best to be thoroughly prepared. The following information will shed some light on the process and the medical evidence you will need to provide to the SSA.

Disability Benefits

There are two types of disability benefits that a person may qualify for with Alzheimer’s disease. These include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Your loved one may qualify for one or both types of benefits because they each have different eligibility requirements.

To qualify for benefits from either program, the person you care for must meet several basic criteria, which together, form the SSA’s definition of disability. These criteria are listed below:

The applicant must have a condition that prevents him or her from holding any type of job.

The applicant must have a condition that has lasted (or is expected to last) at least 12 months or result in death.

 SSDI Technical Eligibility Criteria

Social Security Disability Insurance is a long-term disability insurance program that is operated by the federal government and offers benefits to disabled workers and their dependent family members. Funding for SSDI is provided by the Social Security taxes that most workers pay into the system.

In order to qualify for SSDI benefits, applicants are required to have a certain number of “work credits”. Work credits are used by the SSA to measure a person’s work history and the amount of taxes that they have contributed to the program.  Exact work credit requirements vary depending on age. The general rule of thumb is that applicants must have worked five out of the past ten years in order to qualify.

It is important to note here that if your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease and is 65 or older, they will not qualify for SSDI. Instead, he or she will qualify for retirement benefits.

SSI Technical Eligibility Criteria

Supplemental Security Income benefits are distributed on a by-need basis to elderly or disabled individuals with very little income. To qualify, applicants must meet very strict financial limitations. As of 2013, an applicant’s household income cannot exceed $710 per month if they are an individual or $1,060 per month if a couple. Assets must also not exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple. If the person you care for lives with you, a portion of your income may be considered as well. If your loved one for qualifies for SSDI but still falls short of these income and asset thresholds, they may qualify for SSI in addition to SSDI.

Alzheimer’s Disease and the Social Security Blue Book

In addition to meeting the previously mentioned requirements, the person in your care will also have to meet certain medical requirements. These requirements can be found in the SSA’s blue book—or guidebook of disabling conditions.

If the applicant is under the age of 65—which, as mentioned, is an SSDI requirement—they are considered to have early onset Alzheimer’s and will qualify for disability benefits under Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances program. The Compassionate Allowances program allows applicants with severely debilitating conditions to qualify for benefits in as little as two weeks.

According to the SSA’s blue book, an applicant with early onset Alzheimer’s disease must provide medical evidence of the following:

Progressive dementia

Inability to perform activities of daily living

Standardized dementia testing with a CDR score of 1 or an MMSE score of 24.

It is important that you gather all relevant medical documentation pertaining to your loved one’s Alzheimer’s and the limitations that it causes. Without medical documentation, the claim may be delayed or even denied.

 Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for SSD benefits on behalf of another person online (http://www.ssa.gov/pgm/disability.htm) or at a local Social Security office. When you apply, you will be asked to fill out a number of forms including the Adult Disability Report and the actual disability application. Make sure that you answer any questions with as much detail as possible. More detail will allow the SSA to see how impaired your loved one is and will make their decision easier.

It is important that you realize that your application may be denied. If your claim is denied, you will have 60 days from the date of denial to appeal the decision. While this process can be overwhelming, disability benefits are often an essential lifeline for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about Social Security Disability benefits, visit Social Security Disability Help. (http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/blog)

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