Facts about ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1) Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease. During ALS, muscles increasingly weaken and atrophy, due to the deterioration of motor neurons.
2) ALS, otherwise known as Maladie de Charcot, also goes by the popular name Lou Gehrig's Disease. The name originated in North America, after the New York Yankees baseball icon Lou Gehrig, who died with the disease at age thirty-seven in 1941.
3) Guitar genius Jason Becker and prominent physicist Stephen Hawking are the best-known living ALS patients.
4) 'Limb onset' is very common with ALS; nearly 75 percent of ALS sufferers experience it. Limb onset is when one or more body limbs (arms, legs) are affected by the disease. This can show up as difficulty running or walking, clumsiness, or problems using the hands to do simple tasks such as write and getting dressed.
5) Polyunsatured fats found in foods such as grains, halibut, salmon, herring, mackerel, soybeans and fish oil, have been shown to held decrease the risk of ALS.
6) ALS diagnosis can be challenging. First, the doctor must rule out other diseases. If no other diseases are present, signs and symptoms such as muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and motor neuron signs in a single limb, must be assessed. There are no diagnostic tests for ALS, but regular examinations can determine whether the symptoms are getting progressively worse, as they do with ALS.
7) Although there are many clinical trials going on to find helpful treatments for ALS, there is currently only one FDA approved drug for ALS, called Riluzole. Riluzole can't reverse damage that is already done, but it can offer neuro protection and is thought to help extend survival time.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
Most popular topics on SSDRC.com
Social Security Disability in North Carolina
Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability
Tips to Prepare for Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI
Advice to Win SSD and SSI Benefit Claims
Social Security Disability SSI Questions
What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?
How to get disability for depression
Getting disability for fibromyalgia
SSI disability for children with ADHD
What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips
More Social Security Disability SSI Questions
What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?
Related Body System Impairments:
ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease and Filing for Disability
Cerebral Palsy and Filing for Disability
Huntington's disease and Filing for Disability
Hydrocephalus and Filing for Disability
Migraine and Filing for Disability
Myasthenia Gravis and Filing for Disability
Narcolepsy and Filing for Disability
Parkinson's Disease and Filing for Disability
Post Polio Syndrome and Filing for Disability
Migraines, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Applying for disability in Illinois
Disability Lawyers in Illinois
Will I qualify for disability Benefits in Illinois?