Crohn’s Disease Disability and Social Security Benefits

Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness that causes inflammation and discomfort in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and is part of the group of disorders known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

One of the main characteristics of Crohn’s disease is that it can cause issues anywhere in the GI tract, literally from the mouth to the anal opening. Typically, however, Crohn’s causes problems at the end of the small bowel (called the ileum) and the beginning of the colon.

Common Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

The cause of Crohn’s disease is not known, but many scientists believe it could be caused by a combination of genetic, immune, and environmental factors. As we said, this disorder can strike anywhere in the GI tract, and the intensity of these episodes can vary with each subsequent attack. Common symptoms include:

  • Continual diarrhea
  • Bloody stool
  • Urgent need to move the bowels
  • Pain in the GI tract
  • Abdominal cramping
  • A feeling of incomplete bowel movement
  • Constipation

In addition to these common physical symptoms, there can also be systemic symptoms of Crohn’s disease that cause issues throughout the body. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin issues
  • Sore or swollen joints
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Vision changes, redness or soreness in the eyes
  • Loss of menstrual cycle
  • Delayed growth in children

For those suffering from Crohn’s disease, these symptoms can become so severe that working becomes extremely difficult and perhaps impossible.

Crohn’s Disease and Social Security Disability Benefits

Depending on the severity of their symptoms, those suffering from Crohn’s disease may be able to secure benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). As always, however, there are substantial hurdles to overcome and the SSA never makes it easy to secure disability benefits.

In considering the granting of benefits, the SSA has a multi-step evaluation process. In its first step, the SSA will determine if you are currently working at what is called the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level, and in 2021 the SGA level was $1,310 a month. If you’re making more than that amount, the SSA will deny your claim.

Next, the SSA will determine if your problem with Crohn’s disease will last at least a year, and since it is a life-long affliction, that requirement is easily met.

There is also the matter of severity. To qualify as severe, your Crohn’s disease must severely impact your ability to perform basic work activities.

Finally, the SSA will look to see if your case of Crohn’s disease meets one of the conditions in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments in the SSA’s Blue Book.

The Blue Book, Section 5.06

Section 5.06 of the SSA’s Blue Book lists the qualifying conditions for inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. To qualify for disability assistance under section 5.06 you must have been diagnosed with IBD and have documentation of one of the following:

  • Bowel obstruction – You must have an obstruction of narrowed areas in the small intestine or colon, or dilation of swelling. The obstruction must be medically confirmed and have required hospitalization or surgery to compress the intestines. And the obstruction must have occurred at least twice, 60 days apart, within a 6-month period.
  • Other qualifying complications – If you do not have a bowel obstruction, there are other complications that may qualify you for disability benefits if you have two of these complications with a 6-month period:
    • Anemia with hemoglobin less than 10g/dL in two blood tests at least 60 days apart.
    • Serum albumin of 3.0 g/dL or less, after at least two blood tests at least 60 days apart.
    • A tender abdominal mass felt on physical exam with abdominal pain or cramping you cannot control with prescription medication, documented by two doctor’s visit at least 60 days apart.
    • Perineal disease with a draining abscess or fistula, with pain you cannot control with prescription medication, documented during at least two doctor’s visits at least 60 days apart.
    • Unintentional weight loss of at least 10 percent from your starting weight, documented by two medical evaluations at least 60 days apart, or
    • Need for supplemental daily nutrition by a feeding tube in the stomach, nose, or small intestine, or by chest catheter.

Residual Functional Capacity

If you have Crohn’s disease but your symptoms do not qualify you for disability assistance under section 5.06, you may still qualify for assistance by having your doctor fill out a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form.

Like many thanks related to Social Security claims for benefits, RFC is an extremely complicated process. Essentially its an evaluation by the SSA of your remaining ability to work, considering all your physical and emotional limitations. If your RFC establishes that you cannot do your previous work or other jobs, you may be granted disability benefits.

Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits

There are several ways you can file for disability benefits from the SSA. You can visit your local Social Security office, apply online, or apply by phone at 1-800-772-1213.

Legal Assistance Strongly Advised

In the final analysis, yes, you may qualify for either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) if you are afflicted by Crohn’s disease. However, you must overcome many administrative hurdles, and your chances of success are vastly increased if you secure expert legal assistance.

Consider these sobering statistics. Between 2008 and 2017, only 22 percent of those applying for Social Security disability benefits were approved on their first attempt, and only 2 percent of those rejected on their first attempt were approved during their first appeal.

Have You Been Denied Social Security in San Francisco?

Attorney Patrick Kelly is a specialist in the field of disability law and has been in practice since 1976. During that time he has helped thousands of his fellow Californians file successful claims for benefits with the SSA or has provided invaluable assistance during their appeals process.

If you are about to submit a claim for disability benefits to the SSA or you’ve been denied Social Security benefits in San Francisco or the surrounding areas of northern California, we urge you to contact the law office of Patrick Kelly for your initial free consultation.

There is no charge and no obligation for this first consultation. Attorney Patrick Kelly will evaluate your case, provide a straight-forward assessment, and if he believes your situation warrants it, he will guide you through the application and/or appeals process.

Please do not hesitate. To secure the very best legal advice and assistance in pursuing your application for Social Security disability assistance, contact the law office of attorney Patrick Kelly today.

Free Case Evaluation