Do I Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits If I Have Dementia?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t always make it easy for those with dementia to get the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income benefits they deserve. Many claims are denied because SSA says:
(1) Your dementia doesn’t meet the requirements of an Organic Mental Disorder Listing or the equivalent of a Medical Listing,
(2) You can return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled, or
(3) There is other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity.
Not all cases of dementia are severe enough to make you eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, but Nancy Cavey has successfully represented many SSA applicants with dementia. She works to overcome the claims denial by working closely with you and your physician to show that you:
- Qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program,
- Meet the requirements for a disability listing for dementia, or
- Proving that your limitations are too great for you to work at your old job or any other job in the national economy in view of your age, education and transferable work skills.
She offers a free initial consultation and welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your Social Security disability claim.
What Are The Types of Dementia?
The different types of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Dementia With Lewy Bodies (DLB)
- Parkinson’s disease dementia
- Huntington’s disease
- Mixed dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, and
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
What Are The Symptoms of Dementia?
Dementia symptoms can include both cognitive and psychological changes that can impair and eliminate an ability to perform both your own and any occupation.
The cognitive changes can include:
- Memory loss,
- Difficulty finding words and communicating,
- Difficulty with complex tasks,
- Difficulty with planning, organizing and completing tasks,
- Difficulty with coordination and motor functions, and
- Difficulty following written and oral instructions.
The psychological changes can include:
- Personality changes,
- Hallucinations, and
- Inappropriate behavior.
Because of the nature of the diseases and symptoms, many with dementia get treatment from a neurologist. It is crucial that you undergo neuropsychological testing to objectively document these cognitive and behavioral problems.
Dementia and The Listing of Impairments
Some forms of dementia are included in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments” under Organic Mental Disorders. What is key is the cause of the dementia and the severity required by the applicable Listing. If you meet or have the equivalent of a Listing, your Social Security disability benefits will be awarded at Step 3 of the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation.
Some forms of dementia also qualify for a compassionate allowance, and benefits can be awarded in six weeks.
Your medical records must establish that you meet every element of the Listing for your dementia to be considered disabling. SSA will review your medical records and look for the following:
- A specific dementia diagnosis,
- A history of your symptoms,
- Findings on physical examination that are consistent with a dementia diagnosis, and
- Results of MRI, CT Scans and neuropsychological testing.
If you don’t meet or equal a listing, SSA will determine your entitlement to benefits based on medical and vocational criteria at Steps 4 and 5.
When Your Dementia Makes It Impossible to Work
If your dementia doesn’t meet a listing, you will have to prove that you:
- Can’t return to the lightest job you held in the 15 years before you became disabled (PRW), and
- There isn’t any other work you can do in the mythical national economy based on your age, education, transferable skills and your residual functional capacity (RFC).
SSA or, ultimately an Administrative Law Judge, will answer those questions by determining your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is what you can do despite your dementia.
Residual Functional Capacity For Dementia
The SSA will review your medical records at the Initial Application and Reconsideration stage of the claims process and determine your functional capacity to perform sedentary, light, medium and heavy work.
SSA medical consultants often opine that a Social Security Disability applicant can do light and sedentary work, and that will result in a claims denial. The lower your RFC the more likely that you can’t return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years or perform other work. SSA doesn’t tell applicants or physicians about the existence and importance of properly completed dementia or mental RFC forms that will explain:
- What trouble you have with language and how effective your speech or communication is,
- Whether there is any disruption of the use of your arms or legs that interferes with walking and/or the use of fingers, hands, and arms,
- Any changes in your cognitive abilities,
- Any disorientation, personality changes, or mood changes that limit your daily activities, social functioning or ability to concentrate,
- Any reduction in your IQ.
- Whether you have good days and bad days and how many days per month you would miss from work, and
- Whether you have psychological problems that would interfere with your ability to work.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the questions on a dementia RFC form. But you can see that having an explanation of what you can do physically, cognitively and emotionally is key to winning your case.
Many SSA cases are lost because the applicant did not obtain an RFC or the right RFC form, or because their treating physician didn’t properly complete the RFC form. That is one of the many reasons you should have an experienced Social Security attorney like Nancy L. Cavey represent you in your claim.
How Your Residual Functional Capacity Is Used At A Social Security Hearing
Many claims are denied both at the Initial Application and Request For Reconsideration stages of the claims process.
At the hearing stage, the Administrative Law Judge will determine your RFC and give hypotheticals to the vocational evaluator (VE) who will testify at your hearing. The judge will ask the VE to take into consideration your RFC, as determined by the judge, your age, education and prior work experience in determining:
- Whether you can return to the lightest job you held in the last 15 years,
- Whether there is other work you can do or could learn to do.
It is crucial that you are represented at a hearing to make sure the right questions are asked of the VE.
How Do I Get The Social Security Disability Benefits I Deserve Because of Dementia?
If you no longer can work because of the symptoms of dementia or your doctor has told you to apply for Social Security disability, you should hire Nancy Cavey to help you:
- File your initial Social Security Disability application. The application process is confusing and designed so you make mistakes that can result in a delay or even a denial of your benefits.
- Appeal a wrongful denial of your Social Security disability application or Request for Reconsideration.
- File an Application for Hearing and represent you at the hearing with the Administrative Law Judge who will decide if you get benefits. She will have your physician, if possible, complete the right RFC(s), prepare you for the hearing, prepare a hearing brief, and be prepared to cross-examine the VE.
The SSA is in the business of denying claims and will use any reason to deny your benefits. The odds of getting your Social Security benefits are greater when you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like Ms. Cavey.
Contact Social Security Disability Attorney Nancy L. Cavey, Who Can Help You Regardless of Where You Live in Florida
Dementia can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help today! Ms. Cavey can explain the Five-Step Sequential Evaluation process used in every claim, the claims process and how to get your disability benefits for dementia. Call today for a free consultation at 727-894-3188.