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Aphasia: a little known condition that can make a huge impact

Most people take language for granted. A person's ability to communicate with others through written and verbal means is second nature and it isn't until after we lose that ability that we realize how important it was in the first place.

As is quite obvious, we use language every day to do everything from chatting with our friends to sending an email to a colleague. This blog post is demonstrating that right now. But what would you do if you lost your ability to communicate? What if you were no longer able to understand what other people were saying to you? Would you consider yourself disabled and in need of benefits?

We raise these questions in this week's blog post because of a condition called aphasia. This condition develops when language areas in the left side of the brain become damaged because of a head injury, stroke, degenerative brain disease or slowly growing brain tumor.

According to the National Aphasia Association, there are several varieties of aphasia, each with a varying degree of impairment. While some patients, such as those with Broca's aphasia or non-fluent aphasia, are usually understood by other people, they often struggle to find words and get frustrated by their impairment. Patient's with Wernicke's aphasia or fluent aphasia, on the other hand are the complete opposite. Their speech is generally fluent and unencumbered, but is usually unintelligible to listeners.

Because aphasia can so badly impair a person's ability to process language, a person may need Social Security disability benefits to cover costs associated with speech therapy or help supplement lost wages if the person becomes unable to work because of the condition.

Although some forms of aphasia, such as primary progressive aphasia, appear on the SSA's Compassionate Allowances list, this isn't the case with all varieties. In order to become eligible for benefits, a person would have to prove how disabling the condition is. But without the necessary skills to process language, this may require the help of a skilled lawyer or help from a loved one.

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