Can You Qualify for Disability Benefits with Huntington’s Disease?
Whether or not you qualify for disability insurance and are approved for disability benefits will depend largely on the information obtained from your medical records. This includes statements obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis of Huntington’s Disease).
It will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work history. 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).
Making your case
When assessing a Huntington’s case, the SSA categorizes it under a neurological disorder, found in section 11.17 of the Listing of Impairments. They use the following criteria to assess eligibility for disability benefits for Huntington’s Disease:
- Sensory or motor aphasia (speechlessness) resulting in ineffective speech or communication; or
- Significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two or more extremities of the body
Or the following effects on patterns in daily life:
- Significant restriction of activities of daily living
- Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning
- Severe difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace at work or at home
- Repeated episodes of physiological awareness, each of extended duration
Huntington’s Disease (HD) Overview
Huntington’s Disease: a devastating, hereditary, degenerative brain disorder for which there is presently no cure and only one FDA-approved treatment (Xenazine) for HD symptoms. According to the HDSA (Huntington’s Disease Society of America):
HD slowly diminishes the affected individual’s ability to walk, talk and reason. Eventually, the person with HD becomes totally dependent upon others for his or her care. Huntington’s Disease profoundly affects the lives of entire families — emotionally, socially and economically.
Discovered in 1872 by its namesake Dr. George Huntington, HD is now recognized as one of the more common genetic disorders. More than 250,000 Americans have HD or are “at risk” of inheriting the disease from a gene-carrying parent.
Symptoms of HD
Early symptoms of Huntington’s disease may affect cognitive ability or mobility and include depression, mood swings, forgetfulness, clumsiness, involuntary twitching, and lack of coordination. As the disease progresses, concentration and short-term memory diminish and involuntary movements of the head, trunk, and limbs increase. Walking, speaking, and swallowing abilities begin to deteriorate. Eventually the individual becomes unable to care for themselves. The various possible symptoms of HD include:
- Aggressive outbursts
- Mood swings
- Social withdrawal
- Fidgety behavior
- Problems with coordination
- Involuntary movements (chorea, dystonia)
- Difficulties with speech, swallowing, balance, and walking
- Problems with short-term memory, organizing, coping, and concentrating
Whom Does HD affect?
HD typically begins at mid-life, between the ages of 30 and 50 although early onset may occur in people as young as 2 years old. Children who develop the juvenile form of the disease rarely reach adulthood.
HD affects males and females equally as well as all ethnic and racial makeups. A child of a person with HD has a 50% chance of inheriting the fatal gene. Everyone who carries the gene will at some point develop the disease. In 1993, the HD gene was located and a direct test developed which can accurately determine whether a person carries the HD gene. However, the test cannot predict when HD symptoms will start.
The average lifespan after the onset of HD for an individuals is between 10-20 years. Most people suffering from HD do not die as a direct result of HD but rather from indirect medical problems that arise (infections, choking and pneumonia) from the effects of HD on the body.
Treatment for HD
There is currently no cure for Huntington disease. There is also no known way to stop the disease from progressing. The primary goal of treatment is to slow the symptoms and help the person function for as long as possible.
Possible medicines can be prescribed, depending on the symptoms.
- Dopamine blockers may help reduce abnormal behaviors and movements.
- Drugs such as amantadine and tetrabenazine are used to try to control extra movements.
As the disease progresses, the person will need assistance and supervision, and may eventually require 24-hour care.
Getting Help for Your Adult Onset Huntington Disease Disability Claim
Because of the degenerative nature of Huntington’s disease, you should strongly consider having someone represent you when you apply for Social Security disability benefits. Having a locally-based Utah Social Security lawyer to help file your claim ensures that the claim will be filed correctly and contain all of the pertinent information which the SSA requires in order to place your claim in the compassionate allowances program so that you can begin receiving your benefits sooner rather than later.
Hiring an SSDI Attorney
Even in cases of Huntington’s Disease diagnoses, there are no guarantees in the application process. The best way to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve is by retaining an knowledgeable Social Security lawyer. The overwhelming majority of all applications are rejected at both the initial and first stage of appeal, but nearly two-thirds of cases brought to a hearing (with a competent lawyer representing the disable person) are accepted. If you are considering starting a disability case don’t do it alone. Call the Utah Social Security Disability Lawyers at the Summit Disability Law Group, and let us help you navigate the complicated legal structure so you can receive the benefits you deserve.