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Social Security's Compassionate Allowance Program now includes early-onset Alzheimer's disease, mixed dementia

People with early-onset Alzheimer's disease and "mixed dementias" are now eligible to receive social security benefits more quickly, thanks to an expansion of the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) Compassionate Allowance Program. According to the SSA, the purpose of the program is to waive the standard waiting period for benefits in order to "provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards."

In a meeting on July 29, 2009, Alzheimer's experts and representatives from Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers (ADRCs), as well as people struggling with these diseases, testified before SSA officials about the nature and effects of early-onset Alzheimer's and other dementias.

NIA Deputy Director Dr. Marie Bernard explained the functions of the NIA, Alzheimer's Research Centers, and NIA's major Alzheimer's research initiatives, as well as the information and resources provided by the ADEAR Center. Among those testifying, Dr. David Bennett, Director of the ADC at the Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, provided an overview of the diseases. Sandra Weintraub, of the Northwestern ADC, explained how cognitive decline in early-onset disease is measured and differentiated from normal aging. Dr. Daniel Marson, Director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham ADC, testified on the impact of Alzheimer's disease on the capacity to work. Susan Frick, of the Rush ADC, testified regarding the emotional effects of Alzheimer's on people's ability to work. Darby Morhardt, also from Rush, discussed how families struggling with neurodegenerative diseases such as early-onset Alzheimer's have a host of psychological, social, family, and financial issues that are different from those of most people over 65.