Disability Benefits for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It slowly breaks down the motor neurons that are responsible for communicating with the muscles. The messages that travel from the brain to spinal cord and the spinal cord to the rest of the body are interrupted and movement become more and more difficult until it is nearly impossible.

After a while, ALS completely kills the motor neurons. Once the motor neurons are gone, there is no way for the brain to send messages to the rest of the body and you will have no control over your muscles. When muscles no longer have a function, they will break down. Therefore, victims of ALS eventually become paralyzed.

Medical experts do not know why ALS occurs. In some cases, it is inherited. There is no present day cure for ALS. However, the FDA has approved use of the drug Riluzole to slow down the takeover of ALS.

Death eventually follows victims of ALS because they lose control over the muscles that are required to breathe. Because of this, most ALS victims die of respiratory failure. The average life expectancy after a diagnoses of ALS is anywhere between two to five years, though survival rates vary from one person to another. While there is no particular demographic group that ALS affects, it is more likely to target those ages 40 – 70.

There are approximately 5,600 new cases of ALS in the U.S. each year. For every hundred thousand people in the world, 2 people will die of ALS each year.

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Common Symptoms of ALS

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Hard time moving arms or legs
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing
  • Twitching muscles
  • Cramping muscles
  • Slurred speech

There are no universal symptoms that make an ALS diagnosis obvious at the very beginning. However, over 60% of patients experience muscle weakness. The hands and feet are usually affected first; it might become difficult to do daily activities such as buttoning up clothes or holding a pencil.

Eventually, victims of ALS will lose the ability to walk, stand, and even sit upright.

ALS and Social Security Disability Benefits

ALS is listed under the Social Security’s qualified impairments. You need to be over the age of 18 to seek benefits for ALS. You must also provide medical records with an ALS diagnosis. The medical records should include a history of your symptoms, results from electrophsyical and neuroimaging tests, an electromyography or nerve condition study, and neurological evidence that is consistent with ALS symptoms.

A diagnosis from a neurologist or specialist will make approval more likely.

If your diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) does not meet the above standards, don’t dismiss your claim. If you feel you cannot work your job (need constant breaks, can’t lift heavy objects, etc.) because of your disease, the SSA will consider your application.

Sources: MayoClinic, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke,

Photo “Clincher of the Paralyzed” copyright by Brennan