Is Dementia a Disability? Can You Get Benefits For It?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide. About 5.8 million of those are in the US. This makes dementia one of the most common conditions plaguing older adults.

But is dementia a disability?

The short answer is, it depends. Dementia symptoms and causes can vary widely. Though most forms of dementia are irreversible, some can be treated. But in general, you can get disability benefits for dementia if your condition meets the SSA’s requirements.

Understanding Dementia

Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not just Alzheimers. It’s actually an umbrella term for conditions that impair your ability to think, remember, or make decisions.

Though it’s more common in older adults, you can experience dementia at any point in your life. There have even been reports of people in their 20s who were diagnosed with early-onset dementia.


Some of the most common symptoms of dementia include:

  • memory loss
  • confusion and disorientation
  • difficulty handling complex tasks
  • reduced visual or spatial ability
  • impaired reasoning or problem-solving abilities
  • impaired motor functions
  • difficulty communicating or finding the right words

Aside from cognitive changes, dementia may also cause psychological changes in a patient such as:

  • agitation
  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • personality changes
  • weird behavior
  • hallucination

Obviously, these symptoms can severely affect a patient’s day-to-day life. It can impair their ability to make decisions, work, travel, or even just go about their normal daily routine.

In addition, people who suffer from dementia rarely notice these symptoms. That’s why a large number of dementia cases remain undiagnosed until it’s too late.

Types of Dementia

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s. It’s a type of progressive dementia which means it’s not reversible and there is yet no known treatment. Other forms of progressive dementia include:

  • Vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Mixed dementia

Some types of dementia, however, can be reversed. This includes dementia-like symptoms caused by:

  • medications
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • brain tumor
  • subdural hematoma
  • infections and immune disorders
  • metabolic problems (thyroid issues, low blood sugar, vitamin B12 deficiency, etc.)
  • normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)
  • Huntington’s disease

When is Dementia a Disability?

According to the SSA, dementia can only be considered a disability if:

  • it prevents you from working or engaging in a substantial gainful activity (SGA)
  • you cannot do the work you previously did or do any kind of work
  • your condition has lasted/is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death

Also, if your condition meets the SSA’s definition of disability, the higher your chances of getting approved for benefits.

In their bluebook, the SSA stipulates which types of dementia are considered a disability. This includes Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia as well as dementia symptoms caused by factors like:

  • metabolic diseases
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
  • progressive brain tumor
  • vascular malformation
  • neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, Parkinsonian syndrome, and Huntington’s disease
  • traumatic brain injury

If your dementia symptoms meet the above requirements, you’ll most likely qualify for disability benefits.

How to Get Disability Benefits for Dementia

If the SSA deems your dementia a disability, there are two kinds of benefits you can claim:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Here’s how you can apply for both:

Applying for SSDI

SSDI is for people who have worked in jobs that pay social security taxes. These taxes are converted into work credits.

The amount of work credits you need to claim SSDI depends on your age. In general, you need at least 40 credits to qualify. 20 of which must be earned in the last 10 years before your disability started. Though younger applicants may qualify with fewer credits.

If you’re not sure how many work credits you have, you can check your Social Security Statement on the SSA’s website. Just log in to your account using your social security number.

There are three ways to apply for SSDI: by mail, online, or in person.

  1. By Mail

To apply for SSDI by mail, you need to complete the Disability Application Form (SSA-16) as well as the Medical Release Form (SSA-827). Mail them together with all pertinent documents to your local Social Security Office.

The SSA, however, reminds us not to mail foreign birth records or any document from the Department of Homeland Security. These documents are extremely hard and time-consuming to replace if lost. If you need to submit such documents, you should bring it to your local SSA office in person.

  1. Online

SSDI online application also requires completing the Disability Benefit Application and the Medical Release Form. Simply go to the SSA’s website to start your application. In some cases, you may also need to mail or personally hand-in supporting documents to your local SSA office.

  1. In-person

In-person applications follow the same procedures as mail-in applications. The only difference is you personally hand in your application forms and documents to your local SSA office. This is ideal if you’re living near the SSA office or you consider sending the documents by mail to be risky.

Applying for SSI

If you didn’t work in jobs that pay social security taxes or don’t have enough work credits, you can still apply for SSI. This is a needs-based benefit aimed at providing assistance to US citizens who are:

  • disabled, blind, or aged 65 and up
  • have limited income and resources

You must also be residing in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

SSI amounts also tend to change per year. For 2023, the maximum SSI benefit is $914 for individuals and $1,371 for couples.

To apply for SSI, you must first request an appointment with the SSA. You can do this online or by calling them at 1-800-772-1213. An SSA personnel will then get back to you to inform you about the application process and what documents you need to prepare.

Should You Hire a Lawyer?

Technically, you’re not required to hire a disability lawyer. But doing so will help increase your chances of getting approved for disability benefits. An experienced disability and workers compensation lawyer like Victor Malca can help you gather the necessary documents and complete your application without a hitch. He has already helped thousands of injured workers in Florida fight for their rights. He can help you get the benefits you rightfully deserve too. Call us now for a free consultation.

(Related: What Are Your Chances Of Getting Disability For Arthritis?)

VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney

Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.

Book a free consultation today. Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida.

About The Author

Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.