August is National Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month. Spinal muscular atrophy is a genetic disorder that affects more than 1 in 6000 children. It causes the muscles to waste away making movement difficult or impossible. People with spinal muscular atrophy may be eligible for SSI or disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
SSI is paid to the parents of children with conditions like spinal muscular atrophy until they are 18. When the child is 18, they can apply for SSI themselves. Adults that develop spinal muscular atrophy can apply for Social Security disability benefits.
What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?
Spinal muscular atrophy is a genetic condition that mainly impacts children, although adults can develop it. This disorder causes the muscles to not receive messages from the body. When the muscles don’t receive messages telling them to contract or move, they don’t develop properly and they start to waste away. There are four types of spinal muscular atrophy:
- Type 1: this is the most severe type of spinal muscular atrophy. About 60% of people with SMA have type 1, also called Werdnig-Hoffman disease. Symptoms appear at birth or within an infant’s first six months of life. Because babies born with type can’t swallow or suck milk they often don’t live long.
- Type 2: this is the intermediate type of spinal muscular atrophy. It typically begins when a child is between 6-18 months old. It affects the lower limbs only. Children with Type 2 may be able to sit up or hold themselves up but can’t walk.
- Type 3: this type of SMA is typically mild. It develops after a child is 18 months old. The symptoms of Type 3 SMA may not appear until adulthood. Over time the symptoms of Type 3 SMA can cause muscle weakness, trouble walking, and trouble breathing.
- Type 4: Type 4 is the adult-onset type of SMA. It typically develops in the mid-30s and progresses slowly.
All types of SMA can include symptoms including muscle wasting, weakness, and inability to walk.
How Does Spinal Muscular Atrophy Affect You?
If you have SMA and can’t walk, stand, or sit for long periods of time because of muscle weakness or wasting, you may quality for disability benefits.
Qualifying for Disability Benefits with Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Parents of children with Type 1 SMA can apply for SSI for their child. Type 1 SMA is included on the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance list. That means approval will be given quickly as long as the right medical documentation is included with the application.
Adults who are applying for disability benefits because of SMA will need an RFC from a doctor that documents in detail the limitations that are caused by the SMA and how it prevents them from working. It’s important for the RFC to describe any limitations that you have because of SMA like difficulty:
- manipulating objects with your hands, and
- fatigue, lack of focus, or other mental health symptoms caused by pain
Consider a Disability Attorney
To find out more about applying for Social Security disability benefits because of spinal muscular atrophy, fill out a Free Case Evaluation form to get connected with an independent disability attorney who subscribes to the website and may be able to help with your case.