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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Getting Disability Benefits for Developmental Aphasia

Brain damage can cause serious, lifelong problems for people.  One problem caused by brain damage is developmental aphasia.  Developmental aphasia can be complete or partial language impairment.  It often has a significant impact on a person’s life and ability to succeed with basic life skills, make adequate educational progress, or maintain employment.

Symptoms of Developmental Aphasia

Aphasia can affect any area of language.  It, therefore, has many possible symptoms including a difficulty with or inability to:
  • Comprehend language;
  • Pronounce language or form words;
  • Speak spontaneously or name objects;
  • Read; or
  • Write.
These symptoms must not be due to other conditions or to lack of education or other environmental factors.  Instead, the symptoms must be present because of an abnormality in the person’s brain.

Proving This Disability

In order to prove developmental aphasia, it is important to have a diagnosis of developmental aphasia from a qualified specialist or doctor.  For example, a child may be screened for developmental aphasia by a speech and language pathologist as part of a special education evaluation.  Any screening should be confirmed by a medical doctor.
Social security disability will consider developmental aphasia to be a disability if it has lasted, or is expected to last, for more than one year.  The diagnosis and prognosis must be carefully documented in the person’s medical records.

Filing a Claim and Getting Benefits

A person under age 18 will need to prove that his or her developmental aphasia is so significant that it results in marked and severe functional limitations.  A person over the age of 18 will need to prove that the condition prevents them from working.
A claim may be filed online, over the phone or in person at a social security office.  It is important to fill out the claim completely and to provide all required supporting documentation.


If your claim is denied then you have the right to appeal or ask for a reconsideration.  It is important to consult a lawyer and have the lawyer ascertain why the claim was denied so that you can ensure to provide all of the necessary information when you file your appeal.
Your lawyer can help not only on appeal, but also when you file your initial claim.  Developmental aphasia is a serious condition that can severely limit your life.  Your lawyer understands that and will fight to get you the benefits that you deserve.
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1 comment:

  1. My husband has Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA), diagnosed in 2006 and confirmned by MRIs and nuclear scans. We are Australian, so our social security entitlements are different. We are both above retirement age, and now receive Age Pensions (similar to Social Security). However, my experience several years ago, prior to being pension age, may be relevant anyway. One year after diagnosis, we found out the hard way that my husband, who is 16 years older than me, could no longer remain home alone while I pursued my short-term overseas assignments on aid projects. He had a kind of panic attack two days after I left on a 3-week job, and was hospitalised. So I stopped work several years before retirement age.
    I asked my doctor to fill out the medical part of an application for a Carer's Allowance (approx $200/mo) from our social security department. This is not a disability pension, just an allowance given to anyone who provides essential care for another person. It is not means-tested and the care does not need to be full time; it is only necessary that the person cared for needs help to carry out some routine living tasks. By then my husband had reduced mental processing ability and poor physical coordination, as well as language deterioration. He no longer managed money or bills, did not drive and could not stay alone overnight or longer. But so much about PPA is not obvious to onlookers, especially when the person is a partner in a long-term relationship. If the carer is a spouse, he or she may compensate for the partner's shortcomings in public situations (such as during visits to a doctor, where my husband expected me to explain instructions and relay information). So even our family doctor did not recognise the extent of my husband's limitations. The result was he refused to sign my application for a Carer's Allowance. I was mortified, and felt I'd been treated like a grasping woman. This added enormously to my initial shock at the diagnosis, but I felt it would be unhelpful to my husband's care for us to change doctor. (Oddly, it was our specialist geriatrician who suggested I apply for the allowance, but he believed it was the family doctor's role to sign the form.)
    Not until two years later, when my husband's compromised brain resulted in a catastrophic response to the anaesthetic during lengthy open heart surgery, was I accepted as a critical part of his care team, entitled to receive a Carer's Allowance. By then we were both already receiving an Age Pension, and I'd changed doctor due to my continued dissatisfaction with our family doctor's attitude. But I don't think our experience is unusual. My point is this: mental impairment can be notoriously difficult to appreciate unless you live alongside a person or know what to look for. In more than five years of dealing with my husband’s PPA, I have found most medical personnel (doctors, nurses and even highly trained personnel in a hospital's intensive care ward) surprisingly ill-informed about dementia in general and PPA in particular. In any dealings that require medical confirmation, marshall your support and stand your ground; you may well need to go to appeals. And if the USA is anything like Down Under, your social security department may not be as big an obstacle as ill-informed doctors.
    (Postscript: Last year after months of hospitalisation, doctors thought that my husband would not recover from post-surgery complications. They urged me to commit him to a high-care nursing home. But reversing our earlier experience, I recognised that he was making slow but steady progress and was not a candidate for high-care nursing. So I took him home, where his recovery has amazed everyone but me - and he's now a medical poster-boy! Once again, personal knowledge of the man mattered more than medical knowledge.)
    For more about our experiences, see my blog, Doonan Diddly-squat, which is listed on your blog list - Thank you for the chance to share our experiences.