Disability Benefits for Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease affecting more than 1.4 million individuals in the United States. While the disease cycles in and out of remission, when it is present symptoms can be severe enough to necessitate extended time off work. The peak age of onset for ulcerative colitis is between 15 and 30, which means it frequently strikes people who are otherwise young, productive and healthy. For these reasons, many who are affected by the disease frequently need to apply for some form of ulcerative colitis disability benefits.
Social Security Disability Options
Individuals with ulcerative colitis can file for federal disability benefits under either the Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. If you have been working full time and have paid into Social Security, you can apply for SSD, which operates much in the same way that Social Security retirement payments do. Individuals who have not worked or paid into Social Security may still be able to apply for benefits under the SSI program, which is determined by need rather than by income.
About Ulcerative Colitis and Disability
Because of the cyclical nature of ulcerative colitis, it can be difficult to obtain disability benefits for your condition. When the disease flares, fever, fatigue and frequent trips to the bathroom can easily affect your ability to work. However, in order to qualify for SSD or SSI benefits, your condition needs to prevent you from working for a year or more. For this reason, extensive longitudinal medical documentation may be required to support your claim. Social Security disability claims based on ulcerative colitis often hinge on documentation of ongoing chronic symptoms including severe abdominal pain and frequency of bowel movements. Thus, it is often helpful to keep a journal documenting your symptoms, triggers, and periods of flares versus periods of remission. Evidence showing ongoing complications of the disorder, such as bowel obstruction, perianal disease or anemia, will also help establish the severity of your condition.
If Your Claim Is Rejected
Since it can be difficult for individuals with ulcerative colitis to demonstrate an ongoing disability, it is no surprise that as many as 70% of first-time applications for disability benefits are rejected. Being denied benefits can be extremely disheartening, but it is possible to get your claim approved at an appeal hearing. Upon receiving your denial letter, you’ll have 60 days to file an appeal, and this can be done online.
Applying for Disability for Colitis? A Lawyer Can Help
If you’re applying for disability benefits after being diagnosed with colitis, it can be useful to speak to a disability lawyer about your claim. There are many things a lawyer can do for you:
- They can secure medical evidence of your condition
- They can explain colitis disability eligibility requirements
- They can help you find specialists to help you diagnose and document your condition accurately
- They can recommend tests or medical professionals
- They can help you understand the documentation required for the benefits application
- They can help you appeal if you are denied
Attorneys can also explain all of your options so you can choose the route most likely to work for you. Even though you do not require an attorney when applying for benefits, the process is complex and many qualified patients are denied. An attorney can reduce the amount of time you spend on your application and can increase your chances of a successful application.
Applying for disability benefits can be daunting, especially with a personal condition such as colitis. An attorney can support you during the process and can listen to your concerns and address any questions you have. If you have a serious medical condition such as colitis, you shouldn’t have to go through the benefits process alone. If you would like to speak to a Social Security attorney today, contact Lisa M. Ritacco.
Denied Disability for Ulcerative Colitis?
There are a few reasons why you may be denied benefits for ulcerative colitis. In many cases, the symptoms are difficult to quantify. The most common symptoms — such as weight loss, appetite loss, fatigue, fever, bloody diarrhea, cramps, constipation and abdominal pain — can lead to different diagnoses, and misdiagnosis is not uncommon with this condition. Many patients have a long journey to find a medical professional who can uncover ulcerative colitis.
Once a diagnosis is reached, it may be challenging to prove you have a serious disability. There may be times when you are not in pain and can perform work duties normally. Then, pain and symptoms can flare up again. Employers and insurers may claim you can take on different work duties or lighter work duties, even if you are facing serious complications.
If you are having trouble proving ulcerative colitis disability eligibility or have been denied disability, there are many things you can do. You should carefully document any treatments, medical appointments and outbreaks of symptoms. You will especially want to keep records of any hospitalizations you endured because of your condition. It may also be beneficial to speak to a disability attorney to review your situation. The law office of Lisa M. Ritacco, can arrange a consultation, so you can review ways you can prove your condition and secure your rightful disability benefits.
Proving Eligibility for Colitis Disability Benefits
One reason why it is difficult for many patients to prove eligibility for colitis is because this condition affects the colon and can lead to unfortunate gastrointestinal symptoms which can be embarrassing to discuss – even with a doctor. It is important not to allow your embarrassment to keep you from getting full medical evaluations and treatments. Always be honest with your physician and always visit a medical professional when you have symptoms, even if it is difficult to discuss such private matters. Keep careful records of all of your symptoms and all the days you have had to leave work or have been unable to work due to your condition.
If your colitis has led to secondary conditions, such as bowel obstruction, significant weight loss, anemia, an abdominal mass or perineal disease with a fistula or abscess, it is important to get medical evidence of these conditions. In some cases, you may be able to secure benefits for the secondary condition even if you cannot secure eligibility for colitis. For example, if you have a BMI of no more than 17.5, you may qualify for disability under the SSA listing for weight loss.
However, you may be able to prove your condition prevents you from working. For example, if your symptoms cause you to miss so much that you are unable to complete projects or work reasonably, you may be able to prove you need disability benefits. Similarly, if you need to take frequent bathroom breaks due to diarrhea or other symptoms, you may be able to show you cannot work full-time due to your medical condition and are therefore eligible for benefits. If you are too fatigued to complete reasonable work, you can also show your medical condition prevents you from working full-time.
Proving you are unable to work full-time due to your medical condition can be a challenge. If you have a BMI below 17.5, this can be established at a medical appointment. It may be harder to quantify fatigue, however, and more challenging to determine how many trips to the bathroom prove you cannot complete full-time work.
To prove your condition prevents you from working full-time, keep careful documentation. Take note of your symptoms in detail, including the frequency of your trips to the bathroom and the level of pain you feel. Keep your records organized and detailed, so you can show the severity and frequency of symptoms. Note how much time you miss at work due to colitis. Record the names and contact information of anyone at work who may have seen you in pain or may have witnessed frequent trips to the bathroom and other problems you have faced. It can be useful to have additional corroboration of your symptoms. When symptoms flare up, it is also a good idea to visit the doctor again, to secure additional documentation of symptoms.
Once you have documentation, contact a disability attorney. A disability attorney who has worked with other colitis patients understands the challenges of these cases and can take a number of steps, such as subpoenaing medical records, to prove your condition.
You can further improve your chances of proving eligibility by speaking with a medical specialist who works with colitis patients. A diagnosis from a specialist will carry more weight than a diagnosis from a general practitioner. Your Social Security attorney can recommend a specialist in this area to evaluate you and run tests to prove your eligibility. Your attorney can also suggest other options to improve your chances of securing benefits.
Contact Lisa M. Ritacco for Help With Your Appeal
To get your claim approved and to start receiving the benefits you need to improve your quality of life, you need the assistance of a qualified attorney who knows disability law inside and out. Lisa M. Ritacco has been representing clients at SSI and SSD appeal hearings for more than nine years — with her experience and in-depth knowledge of the regulations surrounding Social Security disability benefits, she will advocate for you at your hearing and may be able to get your case approved. Our initial consultations are always free. Contact our Media, PA office to schedule yours today.