Did you know that an ALS diagnosis automatically qualifies for Social Security disability benefits? If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ALS, you might be eligible for financial resources to help pay for medical bills, treatments, and any other daily living expense. The following information has been provided by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits.
The Blue Book and ALS
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the branch of government that approves Social Security disability applicants and awards benefits to those in need. Typically, your disability must be severe enough to meet a listing in the SSA’s own medical guide known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book contains whatever symptoms or test results you’ll need to qualify.
The Blue Book listing for ALS is very straightforward—If you’ve been diagnosed with ALS, and if your doctor followed “standard procedure,” (i.e., your doctor made a diagnosis by using commonly accepted methods such as EMG or MRI results), you will qualify.
Most claims for disability are approved in 5 months or so, although many claimants wait years to be approved. Some conditions are so clearly disabling, the SSA will automatically expedite the application for immediate processing and approval. ALS is one of 200+ conditions that qualify for this procedure, known as the Compassionate Allowance Initiative. This means that with an ALS diagnosis, you can expect to be approved in as little as 10 days. You will not receive your first payment for five months, but you will bypass the often-lengthy approval process.
Medicare and ALS
Most disabled workers are eligible for Medicare, but you will not be enrolled onto health insurance for a full 24 months after you became disabled. This saves Medicare a great deal of money, but it is detrimental to millions of Americans in need. Fortunately, ALS is just one of two conditions that bypasses the 24-month Medicare waiting period. As soon as you’re approved for Social Security disability, you’ll be enrolled onto Medicare.
Dependents and Disability Benefits
So long as you worked throughout adulthood and paid Social Security taxes, your dependents could be eligible for benefits on top of your own Social Security disability. Eligible dependents include:
A spouse age 62+
A spouse age 50+ with a disability
A child (birth, adopted, stepchild) under age 18
An adopted grandchild
A spouse of any age caring for your child under age 16*
*Why 16 and not 18? This is unclear. But if you have a child who is 15 and a spouse, both members of your family will be eligible for benefits. When your child turns 16, he or she would be the only one eligible for additional payments.
While there is a limit to how many additional benefits you can receive, any household can receive up to 180% of your benefits. If you have children from a previous relationship, they can receive Social Security on your behalf as well.
Starting Your Application
If you have been diagnosed with ALS, you can apply for Social Security benefits at any point. Because your benefits will not start for at least five months, it’s recommended to apply as soon as possible. The only exception to this rule is if you’re still working—The SSA does not consider anyone to be disabled if he or she is earning more than $1,170 per month, regardless of diagnosis.
Most people can apply online on the SSA’s website, but if you’d prefer, you can apply in person at your local SSA office. Schedule an appointment by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. Once approved, you and your family can focus on your health and ALS treatments.