Social Security Disability Benefits for Crohn'€™s Disease or Colitis

July 25,2016
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An estimated 1.6 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), with more than 70,000 new cases each year, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). If you are suffering from an IBD such as Crohn’s disease or Colitis, you know the debilitating symptoms and limited treatment options. You may feel hopeless and afraid as it affects your job, relationships, and entire life. If you are debilitated from IBD, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.

What Is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel diseases include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These diseases are chronic and cannot be cured. IBD can be diagnosed at any age. More than 80,000 children in the U.S. suffer from IBD, and that number grows annually. Because IBD cannot be cured, it can greatly affect quality of life and may result in extreme financial burden.

IBD causes chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract when the body’s own immune system overreacts to things like bacteria and viruses. The GI tract helps digest food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate waste. When it becomes inflamed, the esophagus, liver, stomach, intestines, and other related body organs do not function well. The inflammation can result in inability to process food properly and failure to take in vitamins, minerals, calories, and other valuable nutrients. People who suffer from severe IBD often experience diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fatigue.

While Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis both involve inflammation of the GI tract, they affect the system differently.

  • Crohn’s Disease – Crohn’s disease may affect any level of the GI tract, from the oral cavity to the anus; however, it most commonly affects the small intestine. Crohn’s does not affect the entire system equally. It may appear in patches throughout the GI tract. Crohn’s results in severe inflammation that can impact the entire thickness of an organ’s wall.
  • Ulcerative Colitis – Ulcerative colitis occurs in the large intestine and rectum areas, and it only causes inflammation of the inner layer of the organ wall. It may affect the entire colon and rectum instead of patchy areas.
  • Indeterminate Colitis – Sometimes doctors cannot determine the extent of IBD and whether it is caused by Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. In that case, a diagnosis of indeterminate colitis is given.

If you suffer from IBD, your condition may be severe enough to qualify for disability benefits. If you are unable to work due to your impairment, you should contact a Fairfield County disability lawyer today.

How Does Social Security Evaluate IBD

Like any other impairment, IBD may be severe enough to qualify you for benefits if it prevents you from substantial gainful activity for at least 12 months.

Some characteristics of IBD that are severe enough to qualify for disability benefits include the following symptoms occurring within specified time periods:

  • You have obstructions in the small or large intestines that have required hospitalization or surgery.
  • Your IBD has resulted in anemia or serum albumin of 3.0 g/dL or less.
  • You have a tender abdominal mass with pain or cramping that is not controlled by prescription medication.
  • You have perineal disease with draining abscesses or fistulas causing severe pain.
  • You have experienced involuntary weight loss due to IBD.
  • You need to supplement your nutrition daily because of your IBD.

Even of you don’t have these characteristics, you may still qualify if you can prove with acceptable evidence that you are unable to work. Nearly everyone with IBD experiences severe symptoms at least once in their lifetimes. Because there is no cure, the disease has the potential to affect all areas of your life. Symptoms like severe pain and frequent diarrhea can prevent you from working at least 40 hours per week. You may be unable to stand for long periods of time, and the fatigue you experience may limit your ability to think clearly and follow directions. These symptoms may be embarrassing and they may put stress on your personal relationships.

The best methods used to document IBD include endoscopies, biopsies, radiographic imaging, blood tests, and operative findings written up by your surgeon. Your testimony of the symptoms you experience is not enough to prove that your condition is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits.

Tips for Applying for Social Security Disability When You Have IBD

You can improve your chances of qualifying for Social Security disability benefits for Crohn’s disease or colitis by following these tips.

  • Continuous Medical Treatment – You should seek medical treatment as soon as you experience symptoms of IBD, and continue to see a medical professional throughout your disease. Crohn’s and colitis can be severe; however, there are treatment options. The SSA will want to see that you have sought treatment, but that treatment has not worked well enough to allow you to perform substantial gainful activity.
  • Qualified Physician – If you suffer from IBD, you should obtain medical treatment from a qualified, licensed medical provider. The SSA will only consider medical opinions and test interpretations from licensed doctors. Opinions from chiropractors, massage therapists, and other providers without medical licenses do not hold much weight with the SSA. See a gastroenterologist (a specialist in digestive diseases), if possible
  • Medically Acceptable Tests – You should prove your disease through medically acceptable tests, such as endoscopies, biopsies, radiological imaging, operative findings, blood tests, and other objective tests. Your description of your symptoms is not enough to prove that your condition is severe. Further, if your doctor’s notes only recount your description of symptoms, his or her notes will not carry as much weight with the SSA. You must have objective evidence.

How a Fairfield County Disability Lawyer Can Help You

It can be difficult to prove that your condition is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits. A qualified Social Security disability lawyer can help you gather the evidence to convince Social Security decision makers that you are unable to work, or that your condition results in marked and severe functional limitations. Your lawyer will obtain medical evidence, statements from friends and family, and any other evidence needed to show that you need disability benefits in order to recover.

To discuss your case with a Fairfield County disability lawyer, call the Hermann Law Group at 877-773-3030.