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ALS and Social Security Disability

May is ALS Awareness Month. ALS, the short name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that has no cure and is fatal, usually within two to five years. Organizations and communities around the United States are sponsoring runs, walks and other events to spotlight the illness and raise funds for medical research. The disease is often called Lou Gehrig's disease after the great Yankee baseball player who died from the illness in the 1940s.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of ALS

Symptoms of ALS vary, and a diagnosis is more a question of ruling out other illnesses and conditions rather than getting the results of a test - there is no test to positively diagnose ALS. The illness progresses at different rates, making it difficult for doctors to determine individual life expectancy without monitoring patients for several months. Moreover, the early symptoms of ALS mimic other neurological conditions, making a diagnosis more difficult. Early symptoms of ALS include footdrop (difficulty lifting the front part of your foot and toes), leg weakness, clumsiness or weakness in hands, speech problems, and muscle cramps in the upper body. At the later stages of the illness, patients become unable to chew, swallow, speak or breathe.

ALS Patients Eligible for Social Security's Compassionate Allowances Program

Because ALS is 100 percent fatal, patients who have received a diagnosis are eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. Moreover, they can receive expedited processing of their claims for SSD through the Compassionate Allowances program that was created in 2008 to identify conditions that automatically meet Social Security's definition of disability. This allows people with fatal conditions such as ALS to begin receiving benefits faster, while they can still use them. ALS was added to the list of conditions in October of 2011.

Get Help With Your SSD Claim

Even though Social Security will fast-track a claim for SSD benefits for someone with ALS, it is important to have assistance with the claim to make sure that no paperwork errors cause delays in the process. If you or a loved one had problems with your claim for disability benefits after a diagnosis of ALS, do what many others have done - call Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. We have handled hundreds of thousands of SSD claims, and can help you get the benefits you need.

Source:, "ALS Diagnosis Can be a Long, Arduous Process," May 13, 2013.

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