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Parkinson’s Disease & Supplemental Security Income

Monday March 17, 2014

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative condition that affects motor and nervous system function. Parkinson’s disease can impact each person differently—causing a variety of symptoms that progress at different rates. In more advanced cases, Parkinson’s disease may make it impossible for a person to work and earn a living. The resulting loss of income can be financially devastating.

Fortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits to those with serious health conditions to help cover the cost of day-to-day expenses, medical attention, and supportive care.

The following article will outline one of the two main disability benefit programs offered in the United States—Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Supplemental Security Income

SSI benefits are distributed based on financial need. To qualify, applicants must fall within the financial parameters set by the SSA. These parameters govern the income an applicant earns and the resources that they have access to.  Income includes the following:

  • Money earned from work;
  • Money earned from other types of benefits—SSDI, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation, and veteran’s benefits;
  • Money given to you by friends or relatives; and
  • Free food or housing

Resources include the things that you own:

  • Cash;
  • Bank accounts, stocks, U.S. savings bonds;
  • Land;
  • Vehicles;
  • Personal property;
  • Life insurance; and
  • Anything else you own that could potentially be converted to cash and used to pay for food or shelter.

It is important to note that not all types of income and resources are counted against your SSI eligibility. Learn more about SSI eligibility, here: http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-eligibility-ussi.htm.

Medical Requirements

In addition to meeting SSI program requirements, applicants will also have to meet certain disability-related requirements. These can be found in the SSA’s guidebook of disabling conditions.  This guidebook—commonly referred to as the Blue Book—is broken up into many different listings, each dedicated to a particular condition or group of conditions. To qualify for SSI, applicants must meet the requirements under the listing associated with their specific condition.

Parkinson's disease is evaluated under Blue Book listing 11.06—Parkinsonian Syndrome.  According to the Blue Book, applicants must exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Significant rigidity, bradykinesia, or tremor in two extremities, which, singly or in combination, result in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.

Essentially this means that the applicant must experience slowness in movements, rigidity of the limbs, and tremors in at least two extremities. These symptoms must significantly impair a person’s ability to do things like move, walk, stand, or sit.

You may have noticed that this listing does not cover the mental or behavioral symptoms commonly caused by Parkinson’s disease. This is likely due to the fact that, if a person experiences mental, emotional, or behavioral symptoms as a result of Parkinson’s disease, it is likely that they will also have the physical symptoms to meet Blue Book listing 11.06. 

Be sure to include information about symptoms not mentioned in the Blue Book on your—or a loved one’s—application for SSI benefits.  This is due to the fact that the SSA will consider the combined effects of all of your symptoms to determine whether or not you qualify for disability.

The Application

Before beginning the application, you will need to gather as much medical documentation pertaining to your condition as possible. This may include documentation of your diagnosis, findings of physical and mental examinations, doctor's notes, a record of treatments, and a history of hospitalizations. It is important to remember that, while a diagnosis helps, you will need to demonstrate how your condition interferes with your ability to work and earn a living.

In addition to medical documentation, you will also need to provide financial statements to prove that you fall within the financial limits for SSI. For a complete list of documentation you may need, visit the Adult Disability Checklist.

When you are ready to begin the application, you may choose between applying online or in person. The application consists of several forms, but if you have questions or are unsure of what information to include, consider calling your local Social Security Administration office to schedule an appointment to complete the application in person.

Be sure to provide clear, detailed, and accurate answers when filling out the SSI application paperwork. Any missing or inconsistent information could potentially jeopardize your claim.

Receiving a Decision

After submitting your initial application for SSI benefits, it may take several months to receive a decision. If you are approved, you will be mailed a letter outlining the specifics of your award and payment schedule. If your claim is denied, you will be mailed a letter explaining the reason behind your denial and how to appeal the SSA’s decision.

Unfortunately, more than half of initial disability applications are denied. If your claim, or a loved one’s claim, is denied, it is not the end of the road. You can appeal this decision within 60 days of receiving your notice of denial.  Use the appeals process to strengthen your claim and to correct any mistakes that were made the first time around.

If you remain persistent in your efforts and keep organized, you will increase your chances of approval. For more information about applying for disability benefits with Parkinson’s disease, visit the following page: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/parkinsons-disease-and-social-security-disability.

Molly Clarke
Guest Blogger

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