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Hepatitis C and Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of hepatitis C?

Author Attorney Greg Reed:

Approximately 3.9 million people in the United States have hepatitis C, a disease that is often undiagnosed because symptoms do not appear for one to three months. Hepatitis C, or HCV, is an infection caused by the hepatitis C virus and spread through contaminated blood. Though 15 to 25 percent of people who contract hepatitis C will clear the virus from their bodies on their own, a chronic case of hepatitis C can later develop into cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits with hepatitis C can be a complex matter. The SSA lists chronic liver disease but the full listing is long and complicated and hepatitis C is not specifically mentioned.

There are many forms of hepatitis C, but the most common in the United States is type 1.

No one type is more serious than another as all types respond differently to treatment and affect people in different stages: The incubation period is the first exposure to the disease, which is usually 45 days, but can be anywhere from 14 to 80 days. Acute hepatitis is a short-term infection that lasts about six months after a person contracts the virus. At this point, some people will clear the disease on their own. If an infected person fails to rid the disease from their body on their own, the virus becomes a long-term infection and may lead to a serious condition such as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis develops over a period of 20 to 30 years when inflammation replaces healthy liver cells with scar tissue. Cirrhosis develops more rapidly if a person drinks alcohol and can lead to liver cancer.

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 hepatitis C. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!

Every hepatitis C infection begins with acute hepatitis C. Symptoms appear one to three months after exposure to the virus and include:

  •    Fatigue
  •   Poor appetite
  •   Weight loss
  •   Yellow discoloration in skin and eyes
  •   Bleeding easily
  •   Bruising easily
  •   Fluid buildup in abdomen
  •   Swelling in legs
  •   Dark colored urine
  •   Confusion, drowsiness, slurred speech
  •   Spiderlike blood vessels

These symptoms can cause you to miss work, possibly jeopardizing your ability to maintain employment.

Hepatitis C occurs when blood contaminated with the virus enters the blood stream of an uninfected person.

It can be transmitted through injection drug use, donated blood and organs, and needle prick injuries. Less often HCV is contracted through sex with an HCV positive person, sharing personal items such as razors which are contaminated with blood and unregulated tattooing.

Who is at risk of contracting the disease?

  •    Drug users
  •   People who have been exposed to HCV, such as healthcare workers
  •   People with HIV
  •   Children born to HCV positive mothers
  •   Recipients of blood transfusions or organ transplants before July 1992 when better methods of blood testing became available
  •   Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987

HCV is treated with antiviral medications administered until no virus can be detected – at least 12 weeks after treatment is completed.

In the past, treatment required weekly injections and oral medications that caused severe side effects, but new advances in drugs have resulted in medications with fewer side effects, shorter treatment times, and better outcomes.

You will need to demonstrate to the SSA that you are following your doctors treatment plan to enhance your ability to qualify for disability benefits.

Qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits with hepatitis C

Qualifying for SSDI with hepatitis C can be a complex matter.

The Social Security Administration lists chronic liver disease as an impairment under Section 5.05 in its Blue Book. The full listing is long and complicated and hepatitis C is not specifically mentioned. In order to qualify automatically, you must show that the symptoms of hepatitis C or the side effects of medication are so severe you are unable to work. An applicant must be able to provide evidence of complications such as internal bleeding, fluid in the abdominal or pleural cavity, hepatorenal syndrome (progressive kidney failure), or hepatopulmonary syndrome (a lung condition caused by liver damage).

In most cases, an applicant will not be able to meet the requirements of the listing, but nausea, extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain can make it difficult or impossible to work.

Medications can affect a person’s ability to think clearly, or cause memory problems, depression, and mood swings. An individual may still qualify if they can prove that their symptoms or the side effects of medications render them incapable of holding a full-time job. In all cases, it is important to provide as much medical information as possible when applying; include all laboratory results, x-rays, ultrasounds, doctors’ records and opinions.

If hepatitis C develops into a chronic infection, it can turn into a disabling condition.

If you have hepatitis C and it has impacted your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.

The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.

  1.   The Duration of Work test.   Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
  2.   The Current Work Test.   Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.

The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.

  1.   Are you working?   Your disability must be “total”.
  2.   Is your medical condition severe?    Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
  3.   Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?   The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
  4.   Can you do the work you did before?   SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
  5.   Can you do any other type of work?   If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.

More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.

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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.

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Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 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. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.

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