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Can You Get Disability for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
December 6, 2022  ·  3 min read

In 2021 alone, the Social Security Administration (SSA) awarded 30,064 workers benefits for mental disorders, like Alzheimer’s. If your Alzheimer’s is severe enough to interfere with your ability to work, you may be eligible for monthly payments and free healthcare through the SSA. 

Still, disability benefits are complicated — and it can be a challenge to make sense of how the SSA evaluates your eligibility. We’ll break down, in laymen’s terms, when Alzheimer's qualifies for disability benefits — and how to apply, and get approved for, disability with Alzheimer's. 

We've also created an easy, 2-minute disability quiz that'll give you instant insight into your eligibility. After you take it, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to one of our client advocates — who can give you further legal advice.

Is Alzheimer's a disability? 

Yes, Alzheimer's is considered a disability. However, you’ll only qualify for benefits through the SSA if your Alzheimer's is so advanced you can no longer work.

How the SSA defines Alzheimer's

The SSA defines Alzheimer's as a neurocognitive disorder that impacts memory. According to the Blue Book — where the SSA lists official conditions and symptoms — workers with Alzheimer’s must show a decline in their cognitive function. This can accompany symptoms like loss of memory, a decrease in executive function (like planning and decision-making), visual-spatial abilities, and impairments to language, speech, vision, judgment, and insight. 

Can you get disability for Alzheimer’s? 

If your Alzheimer’s symptoms are advanced enough to prevent you from working, you may qualify for Social Security benefits. You’re more likely to qualify if you’re already seeing a healthcare provider for diagnosis and/or treatment, and if you can provide both medical evidence that shows a change in your cognitive function. 

You can also increase your odds of approval by working with a disability lawyer. They’ll be able to advise you on how to best show that your Alzheimer’s meets the SSA’s strict criteria. 

Criteria for getting disability with Alzheimer’s 

Alzheimer’s can impact every area of your personal and professional life. But an Alzheimer’s diagnosis alone isn’t enough to get Social Security disability benefits. The SSA follows official criteria to determine whether or not your Alzheimer’s is severe enough to qualify. 

In general, the SSA requires both medical and nonmedical evidence that establishes that you have Alzheimer’s and that it significantly impacts you in a work setting. 

Criteria to consider are: 

  1. You regularly experience symptoms such as: Memory lossConfusionDecrease in executive functioning that makes it hard for you to plan, prioritize, or make decisionsLanguage, speech, or vision impairmentsOther cognitive impairments that make it impossible for you to work

AND, you can prove that through the following: 

  • Evidence from Medical sources: The SSA will accept documentation from your physician or psychologist, as well as input from other healthcare providers like physician assistants, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and licensed clinical social workers. Evidence should include: Your diagnosisYour complete set of symptomsYour medical, psychological, and psychiatric historyPhysical or mental examsMedications you take and how effective they areAny therapy you receive and how effective it isSide effects of medication or other treatment that may impact your ability to workObservations and descriptions of your cognitive function
  • Evidence from people who know you: The people close to you see first-hand how Alzheimer’s interferes with your work, which is why the SSA considers their perspective. You can include evidence from your family, friends, caregivers, social workers, and anyone else you interact with who can speak to your condition. Their evidence should include: Your complete set of symptomsDescriptions of your daily functioningYour medical treatment 
  • Evidence from work: The SSA also takes into account how your Alzheimer’s may already be impacting work-related activities. This evidence can come from coworkers or your employer. Their evidence should include: How your Alzheimer’s affects your ability to function at workTraining or work evaluationsHow they’ve modified your schedule or responsibilities to accommodate your Alzheimer’s
  • Evidence over time: The SSA calls this “longitudinal evidence”. They’ll want you to provide all the above evidence over a period of months to see if your Alzheimer’s is progressing and whether or not it continues to interfere with your work. 

Your Alzheimer’s is likely advanced enough to be classified as a disability by the SSA if all of the above evidence shows that your cognitive function has declined and it’s become impossible for you to work. 

In summary, If you answer “yes” to some of the following, you should consider applying: 

  • Do you experience disturbances in your memory? 
  • Do you experience loss of interest or other disturbances in your mood? 
  • Do you have difficulty communicating with others? 
  • Do you often lose your train of thought? 
  • Is it difficult for you to remember the skills or knowledge you need to do your job? 

My Alzheimer’s meets the criteria. Now what? 

If your Alzheimer’s meets the criteria, you’re ready to apply. Here’s what we suggest: 

Apply now if:

  • Your symptoms make it very hard to work

Consider waiting and applying later if:

  • You were recently diagnosed, but your symptoms are manageable, OR
  • You haven’t yet stopped working (even if you worry you’ll need to soon)

Probably don't apply if:

  • You're working (earning more than $1,400 per month) and don't plan to stop

Whether you apply now or not, get as much medical care as possible. Establishing a relationship with a healthcare provider will make it easier for you to prove the severity of your Alzheimer’s whenever you are ready to apply. 

You can also take our free 2-minute disability quiz to find out whether or not you qualify before you apply. If you do qualify, we can connect you with an experienced disability lawyer who can increase your odds of approval. You’ll only have to pay your lawyer if you do get approved for disability benefits. 

Which type of benefits should you apply for? 

There are two disability benefits programs available through the SSA. Applying for the right program for your situation is one way you can boost your odds of approval. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is typically reserved for people who’ve worked at least five of the last ten years, while Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides coverage for people who don’t have much work history and have little to no monthly income. 

The SSA can also approve applicants for both SSDI and SSI. They share the same application, so you can apply for both programs and let the SSA determine which will offer the best benefits for your situation. 

How much is a disability check for Alzheimer’s? 

The average disability check for workers with neurocognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s is $1,377.36, but your actual monthly payment will vary based on your own work and income history. 

It’s important to note, though, that your disability check is capped at a certain amount regardless of how advanced your Alzheimer’s is. The maximum monthly SSDI benefit is $3,822 and the maximum monthly SSI benefit is $943 in 2024.

What if my Alzheimer’s doesn’t meet the criteria? 

If your Alzheimer’s doesn’t meet the criteria, don’t give up just yet. It may still be worth applying if you feel you can prove that your Alzheimer’s is interfering with your work. 

The reality is that qualifying for disability can be challenging no matter how advanced your condition is. Only 20% of people who apply for disability benefits win their claim on their first application. But perseverance usually pays off, since over half of applicants get approved when they appeal their case in front of a judge. 

Check out our step-by-step guide to applying for disability benefits to get more support through the application process.

Skip the reading. See which benefits you qualify for in 2-minutes or less.

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See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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