Muscular dystrophy is a group of serious genetic muscle diseases that can require extensive treatment and, over time, become debilitating. These conditions may affect your ability to work and cause you to worry about how you'll provide for yourself and your family. If your severe muscular dystrophy prevents you from holding a job, you may be entitled to receive benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, because applying for Social Security (SS) disability can be a complex and lengthy process, understanding the long-term effects of these diseases and the SSA's criteria for determining disability before applying may increase your chances of approval.
What Is Muscular Dystrophy?
Muscular dystrophy is a group of more than 100 hereditary diseases that cause progressive weakness and the widespread loss of muscle mass. Some types of muscular dystrophy can be diagnosed in childhood, while the symptoms of other types of the disease don't become apparent until the patient reaches adulthood. Currently, there is no cure for muscular dystrophy disorders, and a patient’s prognosis largely depends on the type of muscular dystrophy he has. However, some patients are able to manage the symptoms of their disease with the help of medications and therapies. In some cases, assistive devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and braces can be used to help muscular dystrophy patients preserve some independence and mobility.
What Causes Muscular Dystrophy?
In a person who does not have a muscular dystrophy, genes make proteins that effectively protect muscle fibers from damage. In patients with muscular dystrophy, mutated genes interfere with the body's ability to produce the proteins needed to form and maintain healthy muscle tissue. Often, these mutated genes are inherited, but occasionally they can spontaneously occur in a mother's egg or developing embryo.
Symptoms Associated With Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy diseases can affect multiple parts of the body, including the heart, eyes, lungs, mouth, nervous system, endocrine glands, and gastrointestinal system. These diseases can also affect patients' brains, resulting in mood disorders and learning disabilities. Other symptoms associated with muscular dystrophy diseases include:
- Paralysis (partial or complete)
- Involuntary muscle tremors
- Sensory disturbances
- Ataxia (lack of muscle coordination)
These symptoms can make it difficult for patients to use their muscles to complete everyday tasks, such as:
- Getting dressed
- Personal grooming
Applying for SS Benefits for Muscular Dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy diseases are listed in the SSA's “Blue Book” Listing of Impairments. Patients who suffer from muscle dysfunction in at least two extremities that regularly interferes with their ability to walk or use their bodies to perform gross and dexterous movements, are likely to be approved for SS benefits.
However, even if your form of muscular dystrophy doesn't meet the criteria for the SSA's Blue Book, you may still qualify for benefits if you can show that the symptoms of your disease prevent you from working. The best way to do this is to get the doctor who treats your muscular dystrophy to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form, which discusses your diagnosis and how it affects your ability to hold a full-time job. In order to be approved for SS benefits, applicants who work part-time jobs must make less than $1,130 per month and have made that amount or less for the past 12 months.
Do You Need Help Applying for SS Benefits?
If your severe muscular dystrophy prevents gainful employment, applying for SS benefits can help to lighten your financial burden. However, because applying for benefits can be challenging for those who are unfamiliar with the application process, having an experienced disability attorney by your side through each step can be helpful. Contact the knowledgeable legal team at Keefe Disability Law for a free evaluation of your case, or request a free copy of the book, Seven Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim.