Disabled boy in walker in front of playground

Benefit approval likely for certain severe conditions

Any Chicago disability attorney knows that qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits is rarely certain, no matter how disabling a condition is. However, the Social Security Administration identifies certain medical conditions that are almost always debilitating enough to merit benefits. People who suffer from these conditions usually qualify “automatically” for benefits, provided they meet the SSA’s non-medical criteria.

Automatic medical approval

The SSA recognizes 225 Compassionate Allowances conditions, which qualify for benefits if they meet set medical criteria. The following four conditions are included in the list and commonly found disabling:

  • Early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease causes irreversible changes to the brain, affecting memory, language and personality. In people younger than 65, the condition may significantly limit ability to work. The SSA accepts family history, onset history and cognitive examinations as evidence to support the diagnosis.
  • Muscular dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy causes irreversible muscle damage and can affect the eyes, lungs, heart or brain. Some victims experience muscle contractions or must use wheelchairs. The SSA recognizes three types of disabling muscular dystrophy and specifies acceptable medical evidence for each. Genetic testing, biopsies and immunostaining of tissue are potentially admissible tests.
  • Certain cancers. The SSA recognizes various cancers as disabling, including breast, bladder and liver cancer. Some cancers, such as head, neck and ovarian cancer, must spread or prove inoperable to qualify for benefits. Others, such as acute leukemia, qualify for benefits under any circumstances.
  • Heart transplant graft failure. Organ rejection after a heart transplant can cause heart failure, while the use of immunosuppressive medications to prevent organ failure can introduce adverse side effects. These include heightened risks of infection, cancer or kidney damage. The SSA requires MRIs and professional evaluation to diagnosis heart transplant graft failure.

These four conditions frequently qualify for SSD benefits; however, people claiming benefits for these conditions still must meet other SSA criteria.

Financial considerations

To collect SSD benefits, applicants must have sufficient earnings records. Typically, applicants need 40 credits, with 20 credits accrued over the last decade. However, the requirements vary based on age. Younger applicants need fewer credits. The amount of income that equals one credit changes annually. In 2014, $1,200 of income represents one credit. In 2015, $1,220 of income is worth one credit. Workers can only earn four credits per year.

Social Security benefits are not available to people who are engaging in substantial gainful activity. This is work with income exceeding $1,070 per month in 2014 and $1,090 per month in 2015. Work yielding lesser income may also be considered SGA, depending on the nature of the work. People engaging in SGA are ineligible for benefits, regardless of how serious their medical conditions are.