Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a relatively rare progressive degenerative condition that breaks down nerve cells in the brain. This inherited disease negatively affects a person’s physical and mental abilities. The brain disorder causes emotional problems, uncontrolled movements and a loss of cognitive functions. The condition affects approximately five out of 100,000 people with European ancestry. It is referred to as the classic family disease because children of a Huntington’s disease sufferer have a 50/50 chance of carrying the gene that causes this fatal disorder.

The most common form of the condition, adult-onset Huntington’s disease typically appears during a person’s thirties or forties and worsens over time. Early signs and symptoms include depression, irritability, mood swings and other personality changes. Individuals will also experience impaired judgment, forgetfulness, an unsteady gait and chorea, or involuntary movements. As the disorder progresses, the involuntary twitching and jerking become more pronounced. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, significant weight loss and slurred or loss of speech. An onset of the disorder before age 20, known as juvenile Huntington’s disease, results in a faster progression of the condition. While medication and therapy provide some relief from symptoms during the early stages of the disease, sufferers become completely dependent on others for care in later stages.

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, provides monthly benefits to individual workers who are no longer able to perform an occupation due to a serious illness or an impairment, such as Huntington’s disease, that is expected to last a minimum of a year or result in death within a year. Title II of the Social Security Act authorizes benefits. To be eligible for SSDI, the disabled worker must have been employed in a job covered by Social Security. The benefit amount paid from the Social Security trust fund is based on the disabled worker’s past earnings history, or those of a spouse or parent, as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). The money is paid to the individual and to members of his or her dependent family. Monetary benefits maybe reduced based on Workers’ Compensation and other public disability payments being received. SSDI recipients receive Medicare in accordance with Title XVIII of the Social Security Act.

Getting SSDI for Huntington’s Disease

As an untreatable, highly aggressive, terminal condition, Huntington’s disease is included in the Social Security Compassionate Allowances program. An application for SSDI based on a diagnosis of Huntington’s is automatically entered into the program. Although set up for an expedited review, the application must still meet the agency’s medical requirements. The Social Security Administration uses the criteria and eligibility requirements contained in Section 11.17 in the Blue Book when reviewing Huntington’s disease applications. Eligibility requirements include disorganized motor function or chronic brain syndrome. A Huntington’s disease diagnosis typically includes both of these eligibility requirements. Even if symptoms have not yet progressed to the point where they meet the listed requirements, the SSDI application may still be approved because Huntington’s disease is included in the Compassionate Allowances program, as the agency understands the aggressive nature of the condition.

Getting Help from an Attorney

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and were denied SSDI benefits, you should try again because the benefits may be the only way to maintain your financial independence. Whether you are approved is often determined by the information contained in your application, such as your doctor’s statement of your medical condition and your work history. Social Security awards disability based on your ability to work regardless of your diagnosis. Your functional limitations must make it impossible to work. Many people find it exhausting to struggle with the symptoms of the disease while trying to deal with the complicated SSDI approval process.

If you have Huntington’s disease, you need the assistance of an experienced Social Security attorney. While there are no guarantees, hiring a SSDI lawyer who understands the process is the best way to ensure that you receive the benefits that you need. Although the majority of applications are rejected during the initial review and first stage of the appeal process, most cases brought to a hearing by competent counsel receive favorable decisions. You should enlist the services of an experienced Social Security lawyer to help you navigate the complex issues associated with applying for SSDI. Our team will ensure that your rights are fully protected throughout the process.

Ruth F. Kolb, Esquire has been practicing social security disability law since 2003 handling all levels of representation from initial claims through all stages of appeal.