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Early Onset Alzheimer's and Social Security Disability Benefits

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Alzheimer's disease is becoming increasingly common as our population ages: the disabling brain disease is now the sixth most frequent cause of death among Americans.  The crippling illness is not limited to the very old; early onset Alzheimer's in patients under age 65 is also on the increase.

Workers diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD).  However, because the illness occurs much less frequently in younger populations, it may take a while to diagnose the condition, making life more difficult for the affected individual and his or her family. 

Delays in diagnosis mean that drug treatment that can delay the progression of the illness doesn't start as soon. It also means that families have less time to make practical plans for the future and enjoy activities with their loved ones while they still can. Just as important, a delayed diagnosis means a delayed application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and cause significant financial hardship to the patient and family.

Why is it so difficult to get a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's? Partly because it is unusual, doctors try to rule out every other possibility. It's a terrible diagnosis to give someone who is still working. There is no cure, and it is always fatal unless some other cause of death intervenes.

Early onset Alzheimer's mimics other conditions, such as memory loss caused by stress and other brain injuries and illnesses. And it really is rare - only four percent of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer's are under age 65. Doctors just don't suspect the illness in people still in the prime of life.

Making a diagnosis more difficult is the fact that dementia is not only caused by Alzheimer's. One could have a diagnosis of dementia and be wrong about the cause. Diabetes, vascular problems, pain meds, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid conditions, chemotherapy and even some types of infections can result in memory loss.

However, once a worker receives an Alzheimer's diagnosis, he or she may find obtaining needed SSD benefits easier than in the past. The Social Security Administration includes early-onset Alzheimer's in its list of compassionate allowances. This means that the application goes to the front of the line and is processed as quickly as possible.

If you or a loved one apply for SSD benefits because of early onset Alzheimer's and are turned down, get help right away. Do what so many others have done: Contact Binder & Binder®, America's most successful Social Security Disability advocates. Tell them your story and learn how they can help you.

Source: Sioux City Journal, "Delayed Alzheimer's diagnosis can harm patients and families," Aug. 23, 2013.

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