Approximately 300,000 people in the United States suffer from scleroderma. What was once thought to be a rare disease is now diagnosed as frequently as multiple sclerosis and other conditions. Like many diseases, not everyone who is diagnosed with scleroderma exhibits the same symptoms. Each patient is unique and should be treated accordingly. For this reason, not everyone with scleroderma will be eligible for Social Security disability. However, if you suffer from this condition, it is important to know when you might be eligible and what you should do about it.
Specific Conditions That May Qualify You for Social Security Disability for Your Scleroderma
Whether you qualify for Social Security disability will depend on how the disease is impacting your body. You may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you satisfy the requirements of Section 14.04 of the Listing of Impairments, you can otherwise prove that your medical condition is at least equal to that of another listing in the Listing of Impairments, or you can otherwise prove that your condition is so severe that it keeps you from working.
Section 14.04 provides that disability benefits should be provided to patients with scleroderma who have:
- Multiple body systems affected. The disease must impact two or more organs or body systems with at least moderate severity and you must have two of the following symptoms: fever, malaise, severe fatigue, or involuntary weight loss.
- Contractures or atrophy. Specifically, you must have one of the following: (1) toe contractures or deformities that prevent you from walking without crutches or other assistive devices; (2) finger contractures or deformities that keep you from performing fine and gross motor movements; (3) irreversible atrophy in one or both legs that keeps you from walking without assistive devices; or (4) irreversible atrophy in one or both arms that keep you from performing fine and gross motor movements.
- Raynaud’s phenomenon. If you have been diagnosed with this condition and have one of the following then you may qualify for Social Security disability: (1) gangrene in two or more limbs; (2) ischemia with open sores on the toes that prevent you from walking without assistive devices; (3) ischemia with open sores on fingers that keep you from performing fine and gross motor movements.
- Recurrent symptoms. These symptoms must cause significant interference with daily activities, social functioning or ability to finish tasks in a timely way and you have two of the following symptoms: fever, malaise, severe fatigue, or involuntary weight loss.
Only one of the above must be met; however, medical documentation and a complete Social Security disability application will be necessary to have the Social Security Administration (SSA) approve your disability claim.
This Can Be Complicated—But It Is Not Impossible
The SSA requires accurate and complete data before it will approve a Social Security disability application. This should not, however, discourage you from filing for benefits. Instead, it should encourage you to find out more about the process and to make educated decisions about pursuing your benefits. To find out more, we invite you to read our FREE book, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.