Slepian Smith, PLLC

Tucson event highlights the severity of Huntington’s disease

From our Phoenix law office, we represent disabled people across Arizona in their efforts to get Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, known as SSDI and SSI respectively. We regularly handle claims based on a variety of devastating medical conditions. Huntington’s disease, sometimes called HD, is one such impairment that will likely qualify most claimants.

The Huntington’s Disease Society of America describes HD as an incurable and “fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain [and] deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities usually during their prime working years …”

On Oct. 26, participants in the Tucson Team Hope Walk raised research funding as well as awareness of HD in the community at large. The Arizona chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America sponsored the event, according to the Arizona Daily Star. The article quotes one of the directors of the chapter as describing HD “like having the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and ALS all combined.”

The article also notes that over 5,000 Arizonans have HD.

Social Security does recognize the devastating impact of HD in a couple of ways. For example, juvenile onset HD is on the Social Security Administration’s list of Compassionate Allowances, which are diagnoses that are so severe, the agency will find the claimant automatically disabled for purposes of benefits. This can speed up a claim significantly.

In addition, HD is a listed impairment. This means it is one of the impairments on a list of medical conditions so severe that if a claimant meets or equals a listing, the Social Security Administration will find them automatically disabled. The adult listings for HD are part of the neurological grouping and to meet the HD listing, the claimant must meet specific physical limitations or certain physical limitations in combination with one of several mental health symptoms. For a claimant with only mental or cognitive symptoms from HD, the agency will evaluate the claim under the mental disorder listings.

If the HD claimant does not meet or equal a listing, the SSA will look at whether they could perform a past job, followed by an evaluation of the ability to work as it relates to disability benefits considering the limitations of the disease plus other vocational factors like age, education and skill level.

Finally, an HD diagnosis automatically meets the duration requirement for disability under Social Security law because it is a fatal disease.



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