Mitochondrial Disease

Living with a disabling condition can make it difficult or impossible for a person to work. When working is no longer an option, social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits may be available to help.

What is Mitochondrial Disease?

Mitochondrial disease is a group of diseases that are defined by problems with the mitochondria, portions of cells in the body. These compartments of cells are used to create energy, and failures of the mitochondria can lead to severe disability. The exact nature of a disability related to this condition will depend on the cells that are affected.

Symptoms of mitochondrial disease include loss of motor function, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, muscle fatigue, seizures, respiratory disorders, visual disturbances, hearing problems, liver disease, cardiac disease and diabetes. Developmental delays may occur in children who are born with the disease.

While mitochondrial disease cannot be cured, there are treatment options available to manage symptoms of the disease and slow its progression. Dietary therapy may be used, and nutritionists are assigned to help sufferers determine the timing and nutritional makeup of meals. Fat and iron are important nutrients for people who suffer from mitochondrial disease. In some cases, a ketogenic diet is prescribed.

Because mitochondrial disease may affect the muscles and can lead to speech problems, physical therapy and speech therapy may be recommended. It is important for people who suffer from the disease to avoid toxins including alcohol and cigarettes, and vitamins must be taken on a daily basis to support cell function when possible.

What is SSDI?

SSDI is an insurance program for disabled individuals that is managed by the federal government. Paycheck deductions are used to fund the program, and applicants generally must have worked in the past in order to qualify for benefits. The work requirement may be waived in the case of individuals who have been disabled since childhood.

Unlike other forms of assistance, SSDI is a program that is funded directly by the people who apply for benefits when they become disabled. Because of this feature of the program, it is important for disabled individuals to feel comfortable applying for the benefits that they have paid into in the past.

Getting SSDI for Mitochondrial Disease

People who suffer from mitochondrial disease qualify for the Compassionate Allowance Program offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The nature of the disease means that complications are often inevitable, and the severity of these complications makes it impossible for sufferers to work. The SSA recognizes the severity of mitochondrial disease and allows qualified applicants to avoid the six months to one year wait time for receiving a response after an application is filed. However, it is still essential for an application to be properly filed in order for a person to be considered for the Compassionate Allowance Program.

Medical records are used to determine whether a disability exists. These records should be compiled by a licensed medical provider and must include details like date of diagnosis, results from medical tests and treatment options that have been used to control symptoms. In the case of mitochondrial disease, the results from tests including blood and urine screenings, amino acid analysis, cerebral imaging, muscle biopsy and genetic testing can be used to prove that the disease exists and is severe enough to qualify a person for benefits.

Mitochondrial disease cannot be cured, and people who are born with this disease are generally not expected to live past age two. In the case of children who suffer from a debilitating disease, parents or guardians may be able to file for SSDI benefits on behalf of their children in order to help pay for medical treatment and other necessities.

Getting Help from an Attorney

Applying for SSDI benefits can be a difficult process due to the complicated requirements associated with the application. Disabled individuals who are falling behind on bills due to an inability to work often become frustrated with the application process. Fortunately, SSDI attorneys are able to help people navigate through the process. These legal professionals have experience dealing with the SSA and are able to ensure that clients fill out the necessary paperwork and gather essential medical records to provide evidence that a disability exists. To get started on a less stressful SSDI application process, consult with an attorney.

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.