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  • Writer's pictureStephanie O. Joy, Esq.

Aphasia (PPA) is a Compassionate Allowance Under Current SSA rules

Note: This article is for general information only and is not legal advice to any particular reader or individual. For legal advice, you must specifically retain a lawyer who evaluates your specific situation.

For a Video/Audio version of this Blog article, for those preferring, please visit the Video'd Article at my new Ramble Channel, here.

Aphasia - Many of you have heard of it because Bruce Willis (a favorite talented actor of mine for decades) has shared his troubles with this condition very recently in the media. As such, in honor of Mr. Willis and because I can, I will share information and awareness as well, within the limited specter of my own area of expertise - SSA legal work. Very few diseases/conditions can be more dreaded or serious and it goes without saying, but I will, that my heart goes out to Mr. Willis and those who love him. I will do my limited part.

Note about our prevalent media: While the media can be our biggest enemy to truth these days, and it has been less than honest with Americans and our global siblings too often and for too long, it still has the capacity, when used with full integrity, to be a portal to important information and awareness. Its share of Bruce Willis' generous willingness to share, is appreciated.

That said, Aphasia, referred to as PRIMARY PROGRESSIVE APHASIA, (PPA), is a recognized condition of the SSA when it comes to disabling conditions. In fact, at times, it leads to a Compassionate Allowance that allows a person with such a medical impairment, to get through the Application process for SSD or SSI, in a far more expeditious manner.[1]

As per the SSA, Aphasia, or PPA, "is a rare type of dementia characterized by slow and gradual loss of language (aphasia). It affects the language and the person’s ability to retain general world knowledge (semantic dementia) and eventually progresses to amnesia. PPA is a subdivision of Pick disease. Recent studies have concluded that individuals with PPA have a specific combination of prion gene variants, although this is not the primary cause of the disorder."

One medical organization reminds us that "Aphasia typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury", but this is not always so.[2]

Progressive worsening: PPA symtoms begin gradually, usually before the age of 65 and worsen over time. Individuals with PPA may become mute and eventually lose the ability to understand spoken or written language within 10 years of diagnosis.

No effective treatment: As per the SSA, there is currently no recognized effective treatment that can cure or even slow the progression of PPA.

Diagnostic testing: Generally, to be recognized as a diagnosis, a patient will need tø have diagnostic testing that may include:

  • Clinical exam;

  • Speech/language evaluation that examines word retrieval, sentence formulation, and auditory comprehension skills; and

  • MRI or CT scan of the brain demonstrating atrophy of the brain language areas or of the frontal and temporal lobes.

The Medical Exam is very important because PPA symptoms vary, depending on which portion of the brain's language area is involved.

3 Types of PPA:

PPA has three types, which cause different symptoms. They are:

  • Semantic variant - which may include having difficulty comprehending spoken or written language, particularly single words; having difficulty comprehending word meanings; and having difficulty naming objects.

  • Logopenic variant - which may include having difficulty retrieving words; frequently pausing in speech while searching for words; and having difficulty repeating phrases or sentences.

  • Nonfluent-agrammatic variant - which may include having difficulty forming words; being hesitant and halting in speech; making errors in speech sounds; having difficulty understanding sentences; and/or using grammar incorrectly.

The ICD codes (International Classfication of Diseases include: ICD-9: 784.3 and ICD-10: G31.09

Please see the following links for more information:

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