Early Onset Dementia Patients May Be Able to Qualify for Social Security Disability Faster

March 3, 2024

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other forms of dementia can have a terrible impact on those who are stricken, and tragically their families as well.

A long process of decline occurs. Slowly but surely, the disease causes them to lose their memory. Ultimately they lose the ability to care for themselves: the capacity get dressed, prepare a meal without help, even to know who they are.

One of the common misconceptions surrounding Alzheimer’s disease is that it only strikes older people. That’s not the case. About 5% to 6% of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia develop symptoms before age 65.

When a person develops dementia before then, this is known as “early-onset dementia” or “young-onset dementia.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 5.8 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, so that means somewhere between 300,000 and 360,000 of them are under 65 and have a young-onset case.

Because people with early-onset AD are often in the work force, it’s common for the disease first to manifest as a decline or loss in their ability to perform work-related activities. If you (or someone you care about) are enduring the effects of a major neurocognitive disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and are unable to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

One of the persistent complaints about Social Security Disability is that the process in determining eligibility is long and drawn out. The prolonged process is financially and emotionally draining.

According to the most recent statistics from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the national average wait time was 225 days, or more than seven months, just for an initial determination of eligibility, and about two out of every three applicants are denied at this initial stage.

The first step in appealing a denied claim is “reconsideration,” and the average wait time for a decision at this stage is another six months.

If reconsideration is denied (which it usually is), it takes, on average, another 8.2 months (2023 Illinois statistics) to get to the next step, a hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge, the stage at which most approvals are won.

For applicants, the discouraging news is that disability benefit wait times are soaring and the backlog of cases is ballooning.

In an attempt to address the complaint about long wait times for serious medical conditions, the Social Security Administration developed the Compassionate Allowances program for workers who have medical conditions that are so serious that it’s plainly obvious they would qualify for benefits.

Under this program, Social Security fast-tracks disability determinations to certain qualified applicants. The average time for Social Security to process a Compassionate Allowance case is 19 days, and it is possible to receive a decision awarding benefits in as little as ten days after filing an application.

This program only applies to a narrow list of severe impairments. For example, a person can qualify for a Compassionate Allowance if they can document they have inoperable cancer which cannot be completely removed, or has spread to other parts of their body.

Other conditions which may be eligible for Compassionate Allowance consideration include ALS, some types of muscular dystrophy and muscular atrophy, certain adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children.

The SSA includes early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in its Compassionate Allowances initiative. This gives people with the disease faster access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly payments—often critically needed benefits.

While Compassionate Allowances can mean a faster disability determination, Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries, for the most part, still must wait five months after their disability onset date to begin receiving benefits and 24 months after their onset date before Medicare benefits kick in.

Do not delay in applying for disability benefits if you have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia and are unable to work. If you delay, you may lose substantial benefits by waiting.

The SSA labels this condition “early onset Alzheimer’s” so when you are asked by the SSA claims representative what the disabling condition is, specify early-onset Alzheimer’s, not younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease or just Alzheimer’s disease. It helps to use the agency’s terminology.

If you believe your disability claim should be fast tracked under the Compassionate Allowances provisions, call or email the experienced Social Security Disability Attorneys at Nash Disability Law without delay.

We will give you a free evaluation of your situation. Together we can discuss whether your claim qualifies under Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances regulations, or if not, how you may qualify under Social Security’s many other disability guidelines.