L ast October’s “ice bucket challenge” called attention to the crippling disease known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. The disease is also known as Lou Geh- rig’s disease. It is a rapidly progressive and fatal neurological disease that attacks the body’s ability to control muscle movement by stopping the transmission of messages to muscles.

Social Security has identified ALS as a medical condition so severe that it obviously meets our agency’s strict definition of a disability and has included it on our Compassionate Allowances list. Our agency expedites the benefit application process for these applicants. You can read more about Compassionate Allowances at www. socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances. Mental health, which comes in many forms, is another disease that Social Security approaches with compassion and empathy.

ALS and mental illness are just two examples of the types of disabilities for which workers may receive Social Security disability benefits. The list is too long to include in one article, but it also includes cancers, diseases, birth defects, physical disabilities caused by accidents and organ-related disabilities such as congestive heart failure.

Many people don’t think of disability as something that could happen to them. Statistics say the chances of becoming disabled are greater than most people realize. Fifty-six million Americans, or one-in-five, live with a disability, and 38 million Americans, or one-in-10, live with a severe disability. A sobering fact for 20-year- olds is that more than one-in-four of them will become disabled before reaching retirement age. As you can see, disability can happen to anyone.

Should you become disabled, Social Security can help meet your basic needs. Our disability program provides financial and medical benefits for those who qualify to help pay for doctors visits, medicines and treatments.

Our beneficiaries are just like you. They have the same hopes and dreams. What makes their stories different is that they live with debilitating diseases that inhibit their ability to work. Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country. Our Faces and Facts of Disability webpage high- lights the stories of people living with disabili- ties. Take the time to learn the facts about Social Security’s disability insurance program and see and hear some of the stories of hardship and perseverance at www.socialsecurity.gov/disa- bilityfacts. These stories are just a few exam- ples of the 38 million Americans who live with disabling conditions and need Social Security’s support to make ends meet. HH

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s Pub- lic Affairs Specialist in Hawai‘i.


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