America is experiencing an Alzheimer's epidemic, according to Alzheimer's Association, and it's not just the country's older folks who are feeling the consequences of this debilitating disease. Early-onset Alzheimer's Disease attacks the mental functioning of middle-aged individuals, many of whose families depend on them for financial support.
For those unable to work, Social Security disability benefits can provide much needed assistance.
First described by German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, Alzheimer's Disease is a form of dementia that causes memory, thinking and behavior problems that typically become more severe over time. In late stages, persons suffering from Alzheimer's experience confusion and behavioral changes; some even lose the ability to carry on basic conversations. President Ronald Reagan famously struggled with the disease during his later years. Today, roughly 5.4 million Americans are living with the Alzheimer's and it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country. There is currently no cure for the disease, although treatment has progressed.
It's a common misconception that Alzheimer's is simply a product of growing old. According to U.S. News and World Report's Jennifer Goodwin, "about 500,000 people in the United States, or about 5 percent of those with Alzheimer's, have early-onset Alzheimer's, also called "young-onset" because it's diagnosed before age 65." While there are rare cases of persons who develop the disease in their 30s and 40s, early-onset Alzheimer's typically strikes people in their 50s.
Persons who are unable to work for a year or more due to early-onset Alzheimer's may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) Compassionate Allowance program allows persons suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's to speed up the claims process to a matter of weeks rather than months. In order to be eligible for the expedited process, a claimant must be sure to state that he or she suffers from "early-onset" Alzheimer's rather than from the disease generally. Alzheimer's patients - general and early-onset - who receive Social Security disability benefits become automatically eligible for Medicare coverage once the person has received benefits for two years.
As a result, it is important that a person showing signs of dementia, Alzheimer's or early-onset Alzheimer's consult a doctor for a diagnosis (in order to prove that he or she suffers from the disease) and apply for Social Security disability benefits as soon as possible. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can assist a person in gathering the necessary medical records and information for filing a claim for benefits, including claims under the Compassionate Allowance program, file the claim on the person's behalf and follow up with SSA staff to ensure that the Agency has the necessary documentation to decide on the claim. A disability attorney can also represent the person on appeal, if necessary, presenting the person's case before a judge and examining witnesses to develop an accurate record.
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