Getting Disability for Vascular Dementia or Dementia With Lewy Bodies (DLB)

Social Security disability applicants with more than one type of dementia, or dementia with Lewy bodies, are entitled to a fast-tracked disability decision.

By , J.D., University of Missouri School of Law

If a loved one has been diagnosed with mixed dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies, he or she may be eligible for a swift approval based on Social Security's Compassionate Allowances List (CAL). Although it often takes disabled individuals many months or even years to get approved for disability benefits, the CAL allows those with certain serious medical conditions to receive expedited approval, sometimes within as little as a few weeks.

Vascular Dementia, Mixed Dementia, and Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Vascular dementia is a disease caused by impaired blood flow to brain, often due to one or more strokes, resulting in symptoms ranging from cognitive deficits and mood disturbances to physical problems such as weakness or unsteady gait. Those with vascular dementia frequently develop vascular lesions on the brain, which may be visible in neuroimaging studies.

The second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's due to the similarity of symptoms. However, vascular dementia sufferers tend to have fewer problems with recall and more difficulties with speech fluency than patients with Alzheimer's.

Mixed dementia is a term describing two or three different types of dementia, caused by multiple sources, that co-exist. The most common form of mixed dementia consists of vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms of mixed dementia can vary but may include confusion, poor memory, trouble concentrating, speech and language issues, and behavioral and emotional problems.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is similar to and often co-occurs with Parkinson's Disease. Lewy bodies are protein formations located in the brain that cause a wide variety of symptoms depending on which region of the brain is affected. There is no cure for DLB, but certain cognitive and physical symptoms may be treated on an individual basis.

Dementia and the Compassionate Allowances List

Mixed dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies are both found on Social Security's Compassionate Allowances List, a collection of very serious medical conditions that qualify individuals for a speedy award of benefits. If you or a loved one suffers from one of these conditions, it's essential that the initial disability application be completed fully and correctly to avoid unnecessary delays. If you have any questions, contact a disability attorney to help you.

Social Security's Blue Book Listings for Dementia

Social Security will evaluate disability claims based on mixed dementia or DLB under several different Blue Book listings, including Listing 11.04 for central nervous system vascular accident (stroke), Listing 11.06 for Parkinson's disease, and Listing 12.02 for neurocognitive disorders. Here's an overview of the criteria required to meet those listings:

  • Listing 11.04: Sensory or motor aphasia (difficulty with comprehension or forming words) that disrupts speech or communication, or serious problems with motor functioning in at least two extremities, resulting in problems with standing, walking, or motor skills.
  • Listing 11.06: Significant rigidity, bradykinesia (slowness of movement and reflex), or tremor in two extremities causing interference with standing, walking, or motor skills.
  • Listing 12.02: Loss of memory, executive function, the ability to use language effectively, the ability to concentrate on and complete tasks, and/or the ability to interact with others using socially acceptable behaviors.

Proving the Severity of Dementia Symptoms

Medical evidence is essential to proving a disability case, and you should review the applicant's Social Security file to make sure it contains all relevant documentation, including doctors' clinic notes, hospital records, imaging results, and lab test results. For those with DLB, a brain scan can prove helpful in establishing the presence of particular proteins, or Lewy bodies, in the brain. A neuropsychological evaluation can demonstrate a significant drop in IQ, behavioral or mood changes, memory disturbances, or other markers of dementia.

Written statements from friends, family members, and former colleagues who know the applicant well might also be helpful. Before attending a disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge, you should evaluate whether symptoms of dementia might prevent the applicant from providing reliable testimony. In some cases, it may be necessary for a family member to be present and testify at the hearing as well.

Contact a Disability Attorney

The best way to ensure that a disability case based on dementia is approved as quickly as possible is to hire a Social Security disability attorney to handle your case. Our Lawyer Directory will help you locate an attorney in your area, or you can fill out our case evaluation form if you'd like a local attorney to contact you.

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