In the United States, approximately 5.8 million people are struggling with dementia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If we go by the data for the year 2021, approximately 235,000 workers got approved for the disability benefits who were struggling with dementia or other neurocognitive disorders. 

If your dementia prevents you from working, you may be eligible for the benefits provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Let’s go over into detail of the SSA’s criteria for dementia and how to apply for the benefits.

Can You Get Disability For Dementia?

It is possible to qualify for dementia disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. The SSA recognizes dementia as a disabling condition under its Blue Book listing for neurocognitive disorders. To be eligible for disability benefits for dementia, individuals must provide medical evidence demonstrating that their dementia significantly impairs their cognitive functioning and ability to perform daily activities.

When filing a disability claim for dementia, it is crucial to provide thorough documentation, including medical records, cognitive assessments, and any other relevant evidence. The severity and progression of dementia will be evaluated to determine eligibility for benefits.

The duration of dementia social security disability benefits can vary. The SSA considers the impact of the condition on a person’s ability to work and perform substantial gainful activity (SGA). If the dementia renders an individual unable to work and is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death, they may be eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits.

Seeking professional assistance from a disability attorney who is knowledgeable about the SSA’s eligibility rules and the specific documentation needed for dementia cases can greatly improve the chances of a successful disability claim. (Learn more about what disability lawyers do?)

How Does Dementia Affect Eligibility For Disability Benefits?

Dementia disability may make you eligible for disability benefits and other government benefits if your medical condition is severe enough to make you unable to work. The claimant’s chances of qualifying may get higher if they have a diagnosis, undergoing medical treatment, and can give medical evidence that demonstrates the severe impacts of dementia. 

Is Dementia A Disability?

Yes, dementia can be considered a disability, particularly when it significantly impairs a person’s cognitive functioning and ability to perform daily activities. The Social Security Administration recognizes dementia as a disabling condition under its Blue Book listing for neurocognitive disorders. Individuals with dementia may be eligible for disability benefits through the SSA’s programs, such as SSDI and SSI.

To qualify, applicants must provide medical evidence demonstrating the severity of their condition and its impact on their ability to work. Seeking professional assistance and submitting a thorough disability claim is crucial for individuals with dementia to access the benefits they may be entitled to.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a broad term used to describe a group of symptoms associated with a decline in cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is not a specific disease but rather a syndrome caused by various underlying conditions. 

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but other conditions such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia can also lead to similar symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia

Dementia is a term that describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. It’s not a specific disease, but several different diseases may cause dementia.

While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, common signs and symptoms include:

  • Cognitive Changes: These might include memory loss, which is usually noticed by a spouse or someone else before the individual realizes it themselves, difficulty communicating or finding words, and getting confused or lost in familiar places.
  • Psychological Changes: These might include personality changes, depression, anxiety, inappropriate behavior, paranoia, hallucinations, or agitation.
  • Difficulty with Abstract Thinking: People with dementia might struggle with tasks such as balancing a checkbook or other tasks that require them to think in abstract ways.
  • Poor or Decreased Judgment: They might wear heavy clothing on a hot day, for example, or they might struggle with decisions that they used to handle easily.
  • Misplacing Things: People with dementia might put items in strange places, like a wallet in the refrigerator or keys in the sugar bowl.
  • Mood and Personality Changes: They might become more subdued or withdrawn, especially in social situations, or they might have rapid mood swings for no apparent reason.
  • Apathy or Listlessness: People with dementia may lose interest in things and activities they once enjoyed.
  • Difficulty Adapting to Change: For someone in the early stages of dementia, the experience can cause fear. Suddenly, they can’t remember people they know or follow what others are saying. Therefore, they might crave routine and be afraid to try new experiences.

Eligibility Criteria Of The SSA For Dementia

You must meet the following criteria of the SSA before you apply for the benefits:

  1. You are experiencing symptoms of your dementia frequently
  2. Experiencing a decline in one of the six cognitive domains such as complex attention, learning, memory, language, perceptual-motor, social cognition, and executive functioning.
  3. Facing extreme limitations in two or more of the following areas 
  • Focusing
  • Social interaction
  • Understanding, remembering, and applying information
  • Managing yourself and adapting to the changes

What Is The Next Step After I Meet The Criteria For Getting Disability With Dementia?

The next step once you meet the criteria mentioned in the Blue Book is to apply for disability benefits.  Before applying you must say YES to the following questions:

  • Are you experiencing memory disturbances?
  • Struggling to interact with others?
  • Struggle in recalling knowledge or skills 
  • Experiencing loss of interest in almost everything

After answering you may follow the guidelines such as:

  • You must apply if you have been diagnosed with dementia, symptoms are preventing you from work or your dementia is accompanied by other disorders. 
  • You must wait if you can do some kind of work.
  • You must not apply if you can manage work and earn more than $1,550 every month.

What Is The Next Step If I Do Not Meet The Criteria Of Getting Benefits With Dementia?

In case you do not meet the criteria of the SSA for dementia, you may not get discouraged.  Most of the initial applications get denied due to less information or medical evidence. 

However, you may file an appeal by getting help from an experienced disability attorney. They will guide you in submitting all the additional evidence and medical records that you missed out on while submitting the initial application. 

Health Conditions Associated With Dementia

If an applicant is applying for disability benefits when they are struggling with multiple qualifying conditions, it may strengthen their disability claim. Some illnesses associated with dementia are chronic illnesses including the following:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Age-related musculoskeletal disorders
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

Stages of Dementia

Generally, there are three stages of dementia discussed as follows:

  • Early stage
  • Middle stage
  • Late stage

EARLY STAGE: In the early dementia stage, people overlook it as the onset takes time. The symptoms may comprise forgetfulness, becoming lost in places, and losing track of time. 

MIDDLE STAGE: The signs and symptoms begin to become more obvious in the middle stage. Some symptoms that you may experience are becoming confused at home, difficulty in communicating, help in personal care, and forgetting recent names. 

LATE STAGE: This stage brings with it total dependence as memory disturbances are severe. People may become unaware of place, and time, have difficulty in recognizing friends, self-care, and experience aggression.

Is Dementia On The Compassionate Allowance List?

Some types of dementia that are included by the SSA on its Compassionate Allowance List (CAL) are as follows:

  • Adult-onset Huntington’s disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease 
  • Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Progressive Supranuclear Palsy
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Mixed dementia
  • Primary Progressive Aphasia
  • The ALS Parkinsonism Dementia Complex

CAL permits people who have severe conditions to get medical approval rapidly. However, these types of dementia mentioned on CAL need to meet the SSA’s eligibility rules.

How To Apply For Disability Benefits For Dementia

Applying for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for dementia in the U.S. involves several steps. The application process is as follows- 

  1. Understand the Requirements: The SSA has specific medical criteria that a person must meet to be considered disabled by dementia. The criteria are listed in SSA’s “Blue Book” under Section 12.02 Neurocognitive Disorders. It includes significant cognitive decline in one or more of the cognitive areas such as complex attention, executive function, learning and memory, language, etc., resulting in severe functional limitations.
  2. Prepare Your Documentation: Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork in order. This will include:
  • Medical documentation: Medical records that detail the diagnosis and symptoms of dementia, which could include physician’s notes, hospital records, neurocognitive testing, neuroimaging studies, etc.
  • Personal and financial documents: You’ll also need your social security number, birth certificate, and details about your employment and financial situation.
  1. File Your Disability Claim: There are a few different ways to file your claim for disability benefits:
  • Online: Visit the SSA’s website and follow the prompts for filing a disability claim. (Learn more on how to check your social security status)
  • By phone: Call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213. If you are hard of hearing, you can call TTY at 1-800-325-0778.
  • In-person: Visit your local Social Security office. Make sure to call ahead and make an appointment.

When you file your claim, you’ll need to provide detailed information about your medical condition, how it impacts your daily life and ability to work, your work history, and your medical treatments.

  1. Wait for a Decision: Once you’ve submitted your claim, the Disability Determination Services office in your state will review your application. They may request additional medical records or ask for you to undergo a medical examination.
  2. If Your Claim Is Denied: Don’t be discouraged if your claim is denied. Many disability claims are denied the first time. If this happens, you have the right to appeal the decision. There are four levels of appeal: Reconsideration, Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge, Review by the Appeals Council, and Federal Court review. (Get detailed insights on reasons for denial of your disability claim)

Can a Person With Dementia Live Independently?

If you are living alone your family may worry about how you will look after yourself. However, everyone experiences dementia in a different way and the symptoms they exhibit may also vary from one individual to another. With the right support many people may reside independently even for years.   

How Much Is a Disability Check For Dementia?

Individuals who are struggling with neurocognitive disorders such as dementia receive an average disability check for dementia of $1,304.03. There are various factors that help determine the monthly benefits such as income sources and work history. 

For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the maximum payment in 2024 is $3,822 and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it is $943. 

Need Legal Help? Contact Disability Law Firm

Throughout the process, it’s important to keep all your medical appointments and follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. The SSA needs to see that you are doing everything you can to manage your condition. 

If you find the process challenging, consider seeking help from a Social Security Disability Lawyer. They can help you understand the process and assist you in gathering the necessary information to present the strongest possible claim.