Qualifying Conditions

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Lupus

Lupus and Social Security Disability: Is Lupus a Disability?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 161,000 people nationwide are living with Lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues, causing widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs. It can affect the joints, skin, brain, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels. There is no cure for lupus, but some medical interventions and lifestyle changes can help control it.

For many people, lupus develops slowly and can respond well to treatments that keep symptoms under control. These people are often able to continue working for many years and may even be able to hold a full-time job through to retirement. For others, lupus is more aggressive or unresponsive to treatment. When this is the case, the disease can quickly limit employability or put an end to working entirely. Symptoms can include fatigue, skin rashes, fevers, and pain or swelling in the joints.

Among some adults, having a period of Lupus symptoms—called flares—may happen every so often, sometimes even years apart, and go away at other times—called remission. However, other adults may experience lupus flares more frequently throughout their life. Other symptoms can include sun sensitivity, oral ulcers, arthritis, lung problems, heart problems, kidney problems, seizures, psychosis, and blood cell and immunological abnormalities.

If your lupus has made work impossible or significantly limited your ability to maintain full-time employment, then you may be able to get approved for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Meeting the Blue Book listing, those with lupus can qualify for disability benefits. Having these benefits can provide you with a lifeline to pay your bills while you undergo treatment to try to improve or maintain your Lupus symptoms.

If you are living with debilitating symptoms of lupus that have made it impossible to work, we want to help you get the Social Security disability benefits due to you. Contact us at (231) 403-0040 or via our online form to get started.

How to Get Disability for Lupus

Lupus is a chronic condition that must be closely monitored to ensure systemic affects are minimized. In other words, you regularly see your doctor and have tests performed to find and prevent or limit damage caused by the disease.

Due to the nature of the illness, a proper lupus diagnosis can sometimes take years. Doctors must often prescribe multiple medications to control symptoms, and frequent prescription adjustments may be necessary, especially while trying to discover the right combination of drugs to effectively control your lupus. Common prescriptions include corticosteroids, antimalarial drugs, and other autoimmune suppression medications, like Acthar and Benlysta.

If you have severe complications from lupus, you may need additional prescriptions, including high blood pressure drugs, diuretics to reduce fluid retention, anti-seizure medications for seizures, or antibiotics to treat frequent infections. Many people suffering from lupus have to miss work for doctor appointments or simply because they can’t physically do their job. In fact, the Lupus Foundation of America reports the average annual productivity cost due to having lupus could be as much as $20,046. This is, of course, when employment is still an option. Sometimes, lupus prevents work entirely, which puts you in a very difficult financial position.

Whether you work reduced hours or cannot work at all, Social Security disability benefits could be the answer.

What Are the Social Security Disability Requirements for Lupus?

The lupus disability listing appears in the Immune System Disorders section of the SSA’s Blue Book. The Blue Book is written for attorneys and medical professionals. As a result, it contains very technical legal and medical language, and therefore can be difficult for a claimant to understand. It is important to work with your doctor to understand the evidence necessary to support your disability claim. Your doctor will also be responsible for providing the Social Security Administration with your medical records to prove your lupus qualifies for benefits.

To meet the lupus listing, at least two of your body systems or organs must be affected by the disease and you must additionally experience other signs and symptoms on a consistent basis, like fatigue, fever, or weight loss. Alternately, you can meet this listing by proving that your “residual functional capacity” is seriously limited due to your lupus symptoms and complications. To qualify in this manner, you must have persistent fever, fatigue, weight loss, or other “constitutional” symptoms. These symptoms must additionally make it difficult or impossible to function socially, complete tasks in a reasonable time frame, or keep up with “activities of daily living,” which include things like bathing, cooking, cleaning, or running errands, to name just a few.

Qualifying for Benefits if You Don’t Meet the Disability Listing for Lupus

Sometimes, you can’t prove any of the above conditions, but you still suffer from lupus symptoms that make you unable to work, and you have the medical evidence to document it. If this is the case, the Social Security Administration may look at your “residual functional capacity,” or RFC. The five categories of residual functional capacity are:

  1. Sedentary
  2. Light
  3. Medium
  4. Heavy
  5. Very Heavy

Which one of these categories you fall into generally depends on your ability to stand and/or walk, along with the amount of weight you can lift consistently. However, your residual functional capacity also takes into account:

  • Your ability to push and/or pull (this includes operating hand and/or foot controls)
  • Your ability to climb ramps and stairs
  • Your ability to climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds
  • Your ability to balance
  • Your ability to stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl without difficulty
  • Your ability to function free from any mental, emotional, or psychological impairments (this includes depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder) that may limit you to unskilled work
  • Your ability to function free from any environmental limitations, such as being unable to work in extreme heat or cold, or being unable to work in an environment with fumes

An Administrative Law Judge or other adjudicator will weigh medical evidence to determine your residual functional capacity, which will ultimately determine whether or not you are found to be disabled by your lupus. This is why it is important to develop the medical evidence, including getting properly worded statements from any treating medical providers.

Denied Disability for Your Lupus?

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the majority of people suffering from lupus, even those with clear and recognizable disabilities, are often denied benefits at first. To get deserved benefits, the majority of claims must be brought before an Administrative Law Judge at a hearing.

Testifying before an Administrative Law Judge can be a nerve-racking process, but we are here to help you through it. In addition to preparing the medical evidence in your case, we will meet with you in person several times prior to the hearing to ensure you are fully prepared to answer any and all questions presented to you by the Judge.

Unlike other nationwide and large firms that handle Social Security disability cases, at Nolan & Shafer, PLC, you will work with the same attorney from start to finish of your claim. Furthermore, there’s no fee unless you we win your case.

Call (231) 403-0040 or contact us online to discuss your options for receiving Social Security disability benefits for your lupus. We accept cases throughout Muskegon.

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