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Lou Gehrig's disease is on compassionate allowances list

Our readers in Wisconsin may know that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, carries the common name of Lou Gehrig's disease after the baseball player who died of the disease. There are other notable people who either currently has, or who succumbed, to ALS: Stephen Hawking, Mao Zedong, jazz great Charlie Mingus, actor David Niven and retired teacher and ALS advocate Chris Penderdgast.

What our readers may not know is that ALS is one of the diseases that the Social Security Administration has placed on its compassionate allowances list. This means that a diagnosis alone makes the individual eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and the Social Security Administration will expedite the decision process so that benefits can be received quickly.

About 5,600 individuals are reportedly diagnosed each year with Lou Gehrig's disease. It is a progressive degenerative neurological disease with no known cure. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control reports that people with ALS live about three to five years after diagnosis -- although Stephen Hawking has lived for about 30 years since his diagnosis during college.

According to a Social Security district manager, the Compassionate Allowances program was started in 2008 and had at that time 50 diseases on the list. There are now more than 100 diseases on the list. The list has been developed with input from the community as well as medical and scientific experts. Other well-known diseases such as diabetes, do not automatically qualify one for SSDI benefits, although complications from the disease such as gastro paresis, could qualify one for SSDI benefits.

Applying for Social Security Disability benefits can be a time-consuming process. The application process can be made simpler with the assistance of a qualified professional such as an attorney, or through inclusion on the SSA's compassionate allowances list.

Source:, "Social Security: ALS on compassionate allowances list," Judith Bartels, May 9, 2012

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