It’s not easy to know if your medical condition you to receive Social Security disability benefits. Does the Social Security Administration (SSA) just award benefits to anyone diagnosed with a serious disease or injury? What qualifies someone for Social Security disability payments, but not others? Understanding who qualifies for SSD benefits and how the SSA evaluates each can help you understand how the system works in general. However, the fact that the SSA uses different criteria to evaluate certain diseases or disabilities makes the process more confusing. Consider, for example, muscular dystrophy.
Does someone with this disease automatically qualify for benefits? What other considerations might come into play? We’ll help clarify what the SSA looks for when you apply for disability benefits below.
What is Muscular Dystrophy?
First, muscular dystrophy isn’t just one condition. Muscular dystrophy is, in fact, a group of diseases that cause weakness and loss of muscle mass. There are many forms of the disease, some of which start to show symptoms during childhood. However, others don’t emerge until well into adulthood.
There is no cure for muscular dystrophy, though doctors can treat it along with any related symptoms.
Does Muscular Dystrophy Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Answering this question isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. First, it’s important to consider how a disease or illness limits your ability to work, not just the condition itself.
Why? Because in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must show you meet the SSA’s own unique definition of the word “disabled.” This means you’re unable to work due to a condition that should at least one year or result in death.
You must also prove your health problems specifically make you unable to do past jobs or adjust to other work. So, if you can still work in a new/different position or change careers, then you won’t qualify for disability benefits.
Unfortunately, this also means some people in the earliest stages of their diseases or illnesses cannot qualify for disability yet. Why? Because their symptoms aren’t bad enough at this point to making working full-time impossible.
What If I Have Muscular Dystrophy?
There are some diseases and conditions that the SSA sees as serious enough to include in a program called the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative. The CAL initiative allows the Administration to rush-process applications from anyone with a health issue on that list.
What Are Compassionate Allowances?
The CAL list is a program that helps easily identify conditions that meet the agency’s standards for disability benefits. The SSA gathers information from a variety of sources, including medical and scientific experts, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the public to evaluate and add new conditions every year. Anyone can submit a disease or condition for consideration.
Since it began in 2008, the SSA’s constantly worked to improve the CAL initiative and list of conditions to fast-track more people through the claim approval process.
Why is the CAL Initiative Important for MD Patients?
There are currently five types of muscular dystrophy that count as CAL list conditions:
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy
- Congenital myotonic dystrophy
- Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy
- Fukuyama congenital muscular dystrophy
- Merosin-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy (MDC1A)
If you have one of the illnesses above and it prevents you from working, you may qualify for disability benefits faster than most applicants. Internal reports show the SSA approves approximately 95% of claimants with CAL list conditions within 10-14 days. This is significantly faster than most people who apply for SSD benefits. For people without a CAL condition, the claim review process usually takes at least 3-5 months.
Should I Work with a Lawyer?
Of course, having a CAL list condition doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll qualify for SSD benefits. The SSA can deny your disability application for a lot of different reasons totally unrelated to your health. Some reasons might include incomplete or missing paperwork or not working recently or enough years while paying into Social Security.
Working with a Social Security attorney can nearly triple your benefit approval chances in the shortest time possible. Even better, an attorney charges $0 for claim help until after the SSA awards you benefits. If you don’t get approved, then you never owe any fees at all.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now:
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.