Lupus and qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Lupus?
Author Attorney Greg Reed:
Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States have some form of lupus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and damage to many different parts of the body. Normally the body produces antibodies to fight off viruses, bacteria, and germs to protect it from disease.
When lupus occurs, the body is unable to distinguish between invaders and healthy organisms, instead creating autoantibodies that attack its own tissue and organs.
Lupus is not contagious, nor is it related to cancer or HIV.
Various parts of the body can be affected: kidneys, lungs, the central nervous system, the heart and blood vessels.
Symptoms can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent, and appear suddenly or develop gradually over time. The most distinctive sign of lupus is a rash that looks like the wings of a butterfly across the bridge of the nose and cheeks.
Other common symptoms include:
- swollen joints
- extreme fatigue
- unexplained fever
- fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to the cold or when a person is under stress (also called Raynaud’s Disease)
- kidney problems
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- confusion and memory problems
- vision problems
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 Lupus. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
There are several types of lupus:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus or “SLE” is the form of the disease most people are referring to when they say “lupus.” “Systemic” means it affects many parts of the body or the whole body. SLE can be mild or serious and generally affects people between the ages of 15-45.
- Discoid lupus erythematosus is a chronic skin disorder where a raised red rash appears on the face, scalp or elsewhere on the body. The rash may last days or years.
- Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus causes skin lesions that appear on parts of the body exposed to the sun.
- Drug induced lupus is caused by medications. Symptoms include arthritis, fever, rash and chest pain that go away when the patient is no longer taking the drug.
- Neonatal lupus is a rare form of lupus that occurs in newborns of women who have SLE and is caused by antibodies in the mother’s blood. These babies have a rash at birth, liver problems, and low blood counts, but symptoms disappear after several months.
Researchers believe that a combination of hormones, genetics, and the environment contribute to the development of lupus.
Scientists have identified 50 genes that are associated with lupus that are found more often in people with lupus than people who do not have the disease. Although lupus can occur in a person who has no family history of lupus, having a family member with lupus or another autoimmune disease is a risk factor. People of color are also at greater risk. The most common environmental triggers are ultraviolet light, infections, and exposure to silica in either an agricultural or industrial setting.
Diagnosis of lupus can be difficult and take months because its symptoms may imitate those of other diseases.
Doctors will consider a patient’s medical history along with results of a physical exam and laboratory tests. Treatment is designed based on a patient’s age, gender, symptoms, general health and lifestyle with the goals of preventing and managing flares (periods when symptoms are severe) and minimizing organ and tissue damage. A variety of drugs such as anti-inflammatories, antimalarials and corticosteroids may be prescribed to treat fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, and inflammation of the lungs. Immunosuppressives may also be used to block production of immune cells and restrain an overactive immune system. Though there is currently no cure for lupus, with good medical care, most people lead a full life.
The Social Security Administration recognizes lupus in its Blue Book under Section 14.02 Systemic lupus erythematosus.
A person suffering from lupus may have difficulty maintaining a full-time job or any type of work at all. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits a person must meet the requirements of the listing or prove that they are unable to work.
Specifically, an individual with lupus must show:
- The disease has affected two or more organs or body systems, such as the kidneys and lungs with one of the body systems involved to a moderate level of severity; and
- The lupus has resulted in at least two of the following symptoms: severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss.
The applicant must exhibit at least two of the above symptoms repeatedly, resulting in limitations in the following:
- Activities of daily living
- Maintaining social functioning
- Completing tasks in a timely manner due to problems concentrating, or the inability to work quickly
A person may also qualify for SSDI if they are able to provide evidence that they are unable to work due to the effects of lupus.
In such cases, Social Security will conduct a residual functioning capacity test to evaluate the physical, mental and sensory limitations that affect the individual’s ability to work.
Lupus can be a debilitating condition.
If you have lupus and its effects have prevented you from working, 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.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- 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.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you 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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