Crohn’s Disease and Qualifying for Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Crohn’s disease?
Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:
The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation estimates that Crohn’s disease affects 780,000 Americans. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue, leading to weight loss and malnutrition. The inflammation usually affects the small intestine and colon, but can spread into bowel tissue which can become debilitating and even life threatening.
No causes have been proven for Crohn’s disease, but researchers believe the condition may be the result of a combination of three factors: problems with the immune system, genetics, and environmental factors.
The immune system protects the body from harmful substances such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Inflammation is the body’s response to an invader; when a harmful substance is eliminated, the immune system stops responding and the inflammation subsides. The immune system of a person affected by Crohn’s disease fails to respond appropriately, reacting against a helpful microbe instead and the inflammation continues, resulting in ulcers and damage to the digestive system.
Though an individual with a close family member affected by Crohn’s disease is more likely to develop the condition, the chances are only slightly higher.
10 to 20 percent of people suffering with Crohn’s disease have a family member with the condition. However, scientists have linked a certain gene to Crohn’s disease that aids the body in determining how to react to different microbes. If this gene becomes mutated, the body’s reaction to some microbes may be abnormal, resulting in Crohn’s disease or IBD. Individuals with Crohn’s disease have this mutated gene twice as often as people who do not have Crohn’s disease.
The environmental factors that may be involved in the development of Crohn’s disease include:
- A harmful substance from a food that has been eaten;
- Bacteria or viruses;
- Cigarette smoke;
- Other unknown substances.
Overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and a diet high in fat are also risk factors, but even if a substance is considered a potential trigger, it doesn’t necessarily mean the substance causes Crohn’s disease.
Though Crohn’s disease can occur at any age, a person is most likely to develop the condition when they are young.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Crohn’s Disease. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Crohn’s disease affects different parts of the digestive system in different people. Signs and symptoms may be mild to severe, develop gradually or appear suddenly.
An affected person may also experience a remission, a period without any symptoms.
When Crohn’s disease is active, it can cause any of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Blood in the stool
- Weight loss and reduced appetite
- Inflammation of skin, eyes, and joints
Crohn’s disease that continues for a long period of time may result in complications such as bowel obstruction, ulcers, malnutrition, anemia and colon cancer.
To diagnose Crohn’s disease, doctors first rule out other diseases and then order any of the following procedures:
- Blood tests for anemia and infection
- Fecal occult blood tests
- CT scans
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease and because no one treatment works for everyone, a variety of medications and treatments may be prescribed.
- Corticosteroids such as prednisone and budesonide to reduce inflammation
- Antibiotics to heal fistulas and reduce harmful bacteria
- Pain relievers
- Over-the-counter antidiarrheals
- Iron supplements for chronic intestinal bleeding
- Calcium and vitamin D (the use of steroids can prevent the body from absorbing calcium and lead to bone loss)
- Nutrition therapy given via a feeding tube
- Surgery to remove damaged tissue in the digestive tract
Individuals suffering with Crohn’s disease may also explore alternative therapies.
Avoiding problem foods, switching to a low-fat, high fiber diet, taking vitamin supplements and acupuncture treatments can help a person manage their condition. For more information about living with Crohn’s disease, see the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org.
Crohn’s disease is often a life-long problem and its effects can make it difficult for a person to hold a full-time job.
If you are suffering from Crohn’s disease, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you meet the criteria of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Section 5.06 in Social Security’s Blue Book.
You must be able to show that you have:
- An obstruction in the small intestine or colon requiring hospitalization, and occurring at least twice, 60 days apart, within a 6-month period.
- Two of the following within a 6-month period:
- Severe anemia documented at least twice and at least 60 days apart;
- Low levels of serum albumin documented at least twice and at least 60 days apart;
- Abdominal cramping, documented at least twice and at least 60 days apart, despite medication;
- Perineal disease with an abscess or fistula and pain that is not controlled by medication, documented at least twice and at least 60 days apart;
- Involuntary weight loss of at least 10 percent from your normal weight, documented at least twice and at least 60 days apart; or
- Need for supplemental nutrition via a feeding tube or a central venous catheter.
Applicants will need to submit copies of all tests (blood tests, fecal occult tests, colonoscopy and endoscopy reports, MRIs, CT scans) to Social Security as well as surgery reports.
You will also need to provide copies of notes taken by your treating doctor describing your limitations: how long you can stand or walk, how much weight you can lift or carry, how many breaks and how much rest you need. Note that the Social Security Administration gives more weight to the opinions of doctors who specialize in Crohn’s disease than general practitioners. Applicants whose primary complaint is Crohn’s disease are often denied initially; (only 26% are approved), but 76% of applicants who appealed were approved for benefits.
If you suffer from Crohn’s disease and its effects have prevented you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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