Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits With an Immune System Disorder?
When your body’s immune system is compromised by an illness or infection, it can become very easy to get sick or injured. As a consequence, many people living with conditions that affect the immune system become unable to work and earn income. The prospect of living without financial support is a frightening one; but for those who cannot work due to a health problem, help may be available in the form of monthly disability benefits. So how does the Social Security Administration (SSA) review these conditions? Can you qualify for benefits with an immune system disorder?
How the SSA Evaluates Disability
Many disability claimants run into confusion and frustration stemming from one simple yet little-known fact: the SSA uses its own set of guidelines in evaluating disability. That means that while your doctor says one thing, the SSA may say another. (Needless to say, it also means that it’s very important to strengthen your claim with as much medical evidence and documentation as you can gather.)
There are two basic requirements that the SSA applies to all disabilities:
- The disability must be expected to last for a minimum period of 12 months.
- The disability must be so severe that it prevents you from working at either your old job or a new, alternative job.
In addition to these universal requirements, every health condition comes with its own set of points for evaluation. These points are contained within the Listing of Impairments, which is divided into an adult listing (Part A, available here) and a childhood listing (Part B, available here).
What does the Listing have to say about immune disorders?
Qualifying for Monthly Disability Benefits with an Immune System Disorder
Before we approach our next subject, it’s worth pointing out that a health condition can still qualify you for benefits even if it isn’t mentioned in the Listing of Impairments. For example, the Listing fails to acknowledge many rare conditions, simply because of how uncommon they are.
With that in mind, the conditions which are presently included under Section 14.00 (Immune System Disorders) are:
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Section 14.02)
- Systemic Vasculitis (Section 14.03)
- Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma) (Section 14.04)
- Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis (Section 14.05)
- Undifferentiated and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (Section 14.06)
- Immune Deficiency Disorders, Excluding HIV (Section 14.07)
- HIV/AIDS (Section 14.08)
- Inflammatory Arthritis (Section 14.09)
- Sjögren’s Syndrome (Section 14.10)
Sheer presence of a disability is not “enough” to qualify for benefits. To get your claim approved, your disability must be classified as severe. Obviously, each of these conditions are evaluated for severity based on different guidelines.
To use HIV as an example, the SSA will need to be convinced that you suffer from at least one of the following:
- Bacterial Infections
- Fungal Infections
- Protozoan/Helminthic Infections
- Viral Infections
- Malignant Neoplasms
- Skin/Mucous Membrane Conditions
- HIV Encephalopathy
- HIV Wasting Syndrome
- Miscellaneous Infections
- Repeated Manifestations of HIV Infection
The presence of any one of those conditions could potentially classify HIV as severe, meaning the applicant could be approved for benefits. Of course, you will need medical proof, so it’s extremely important to work with your physician.
Even with the support of your doctor, being approved for disability benefits is notoriously difficult and applicants must contend with an extremely high denial rate. If you need help preparing your claim, or if you’ve already been denied by the SSA, a disability lawyer can help. To learn more about how Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates can help you qualify for benefits in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, call our law offices at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania, or contact us online for a free consultation.