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Rare disease quickly qualified Otsego man for Social Security disability benefits

A recent article focused on the struggles of a 53-year-old Otsego man, Joel Thompson, who suffers from a deadly form of scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that attacks many of the body's organs by clogging them with excess collagen. While Thompson looks fairly healthy for his age, the disease has begun to progress to the point where it will begin to significantly impair his life.

Thompson, who had never even heard of the disease until the spring of 2010, when he was diagnosed, will probably be bedridden or dead within five years, according to his doctor. It wasn't until the Social Security Administration declared him disabled, and without much delay, that he truly understood how serious his condition is.

These days, Thompson works to spread awareness of the disease by encouraging electing officials to support funding research and treatments for rare diseases like scleroderma, and is participating in a research study at the University of Michigan.

The Social Security Administration will automatically approve an application by a person with scleroderma who meets the specific requirements of that condition, under its Compassionate Allowances program. Even those who don't meet the listing requirements for systemic scleroderma may still qualify for disability benefits, if other conditions are met.

The Compassionate Allowances list recognizes 50 different impairments-25 cancers and 25 rare diseases-that can fast-track a claimant to approval. Those suffering with these impairments can thus get the support they need without having to endure the wait times common with other impairments.

Source: Michigan Live, "Scleroderma strikes former Otsego mayor Joel Thompson, who seeks to raise awareness of disease," Rosemary Parker, November 13, 2012

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