New Hope for ALS Patients

Is ALS a qualifying medical condition for SSDI?

While Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits for individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), there is currently a five-month waiting period in place before this assistance becomes available to many patients. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is an incurable neurodegenerative disease with only one approved treatment. This disease rapidly progresses eventually causing the afflicted to lose the ability to walk, talk and breathe on their own.

The ALS Disability Insurance Access Act

The five month waiting period speaks to the larger issue of the delays associated with receiving disability benefits many individuals face. Now, patients with ALS may have new hope as legislation is working its way through the U.S Congress that would waive the waiting period. The ALS Disability Insurance Access Act was introduced by both Senate and House lawmakers and has the support of the ALS Association.

Barb Newhouse, president and CEO of the association, said in a press release that those “who currently do not have an effective treatment plan, should not be forced to wait to receive benefits they deserve.”

Previous Measures to Help ALS Patients

The legislation is part of an ongoing effort to address the suffering of patients with ALS. In 2000, the SSA and Congress joined forces to waive the 24-month Medicare  waiting period for ALS patients. The SSA also has a program in place to expedite claim reviews for SSDI and SSI applicants who are suffering with the disease. Currently, however, patients must wait five months to receive benefits under both programs.

The five-month waiting period was initially put in place by Congress to allow time for other temporary conditions to reverse. For ALS patients, however, the waiting period is not justifiable since the disease is not a temporary condition, nor is it reversible. About 50 percent of ALS patients die within 16 months of diagnosis. Proponents of the legislation believe that quick access to disability benefits is essential for these patients and their families.

Obviously, ALS meets the eligibility requirements  for disability benefits, and waiving the five-month waiting period can help to offset the lost income these patient’s inevitably will experience. This is just the first step in correcting some of the inherent flaws in the system. Many individuals experience long delays in having their claims approved, and more than 60 percent of claims are denied. For these reasons, anyone in need of assistance applying for these benefits is well advised to engage the services of an attorney with experience in the SSA program