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Social Security Disability for Individuals With Lou Gehrig's Disease

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a disease that affects the nerve cells of the spinal cord and brain, causing loss in coordination and muscle strength. As the disease progresses, individuals find it difficult to move and even swallow. Lou Gehrig's disease affects tens of thousands of people in the U.S., with more than 5,500 people diagnosed each year.

During May, National ALS Awareness Month, the U.S. recognizes the disease, raises awareness of the difficulties people with ALS face and looks toward a cure.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) also recognizes the severity of this disease. ALS is one of the SSA's compassionate allowances. Compassionate allowances are emotional and physical impairments that are "so serious ... they obviously meet disability standards."

Compared to other disabilities and illnesses, receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for ALS is a much quicker process as long as there has been a definitive diagnosis of ALS.

A person with ALS will not receive disability benefits if they are working and earning more than $1,010 a month, if they have not worked long enough to pay into the SSDI system, or if the diagnosis is not clearly documented. However, the SSA will not consider the person's education, age, past work or functional capacity when making the disability determination.

What if you are not eligible for SSDI but you have ALS?

If you are not eligible for SSDI because you have not worked in an SSDI job for a sufficient amount of time, you can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a cash benefit program that provides money for food, clothing and other basic needs.

Individuals with ALS can qualify for "presumptive disability" under SSI. This means that they may be eligible to receive up to six months of SSI payments before the disability determination has been made by the SSA.

Source: The Record, "Faster disability approval for people with ALS," Cynthia Rust, May 18, 2012.

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