Autoimmune Disorders And SSDI Benefits
The phrase autoimmune disorder encompasses a wide variety of conditions that can focus on one part of the body, or attack the system as a whole. Autoimmune disorders arise when the body can no longer distinguish between healthy tissues and invaders, such as viruses or bacteria, and thus, attack everything equally. Depending on the severity and rapidity of progression, these conditions can force someone to stop working, prompting many of them to pursue Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Autoimmune diseases can present themselves in a variety of ways, and are notoriously difficult to diagnose. Further, the effects on a person’s ability to function can wax and wane, adding more complications to receiving approval for SSDI benefits. People with autoimmune disorders often suffer from severe pain, chronic fatigue and reduced mobility that directly impact their ability to hold down a job, but proving the existence and extent of a disability to satisfy the standards of the Social Security Administration (SSA) is not easily accomplished for autoimmune conditions. A discussion of how the SSA view autoimmune disorders generally, and what disability claimants with one these disorders will need to show to establish total disability, will follow below.
SSA View of Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune conditions create chronic inflammation in the body that leads to disability and dysfunction as otherwise healthy systems and tissues are attacked and broken down. These conditions can manifest in a number of different ways, and over 40 different types are currently recognized by the medical community. However, the SSA only officially recognizes a handful of these disorders, which means the average examiner will be unfamiliar with all but the most common types of autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis. This reality means the examiner is unlikely to understand enough about a specific disorder to fully understand and evaluate the medical evidence. Also, even among the more well-known disorders, the complexity of these conditions makes it difficult for examiners to fully grasp how doctors analyze and identify these conditions, especially as technology and medical research advances. The result is a denial of benefits, especially in the early stages, which requires appealing for a disability hearing in front of Administrative Law Judge. At this point, an experienced disability attorney can present the proper arguments and ask the appropriate medical questions of experts to give a claimant a good chance of being approved.
Disability is established by either producing evidence that a claimant fits within the listing criteria in the SSA’s blue book, or showing his/her residual functional capacity or ability to hold down regular employment is severely impaired due to the condition’s effects. In effect, the condition must be so severe that basic work functions, like walking, sitting or retaining information, become nearly impossible to perform on a regular basis. In the context of autoimmune disorders, this can be tricky if the effects of the condition wax and wane. Having an experienced disability insurance attorney to show an inability to perform work on a regular and continuing basis, not just isolated points in time, is key to overcoming this potential obstacle. Turning to the types of evidence needed to show disability in a specific example, lupus, a systemic condition, information related to a person’s physical, mental and sensory abilities must be provided. For the physical component, lupus sufferers often experience fatigue, chest pain, headaches and shortness of breath, which would impact physical exertion. For mental limitations, lupus frequently triggers memory problems, anxiety, depression and difficulty concentrating, all factors that would inhibit effectively performing daily job tasks. Finally, those with lupus commonly have sensory problems that manifest as blurry vision, photosensitivity and seizures, all of which restrict working in any meaningful or safe capacity.
Qualifying for SSDI benefits should be a simple and easy process, but in reality, receiving approval is frequently long and complex. Farrell Disability Law understands your frustrations with this process, and will work to get you the money you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation.