What Is Liver Disease?
Liver disease is lumped into one large category by the SSA for the purposes of determining Social Security Disability eligibility. Regardless of whether you are suffering from hepatitis, cirrhosis, or some other form of liver disease; the SSA applies the same tests and standards to determine whether or not your qualify or Social Security Disability.
Fortunately, many of these tests are fairly objective in nature. If you have been diagnosed with liver disease, your doctor will have already performed most of these tests in the process of your diagnosis and treatment.
It’s entirely likely your doctor will have a good idea whether or not your diagnoses are likely to qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits.
The tests used to gauge the severity of your liver disease include a measurement of your bilirubin levels and measurements of your hypoablbuminemia. In general, tests will need to demonstrate that your condition is severe enough to merit Social Security Disability over a period of several months before your application will be accepted.
Even if your test results don’t fall within the Social Security Disability guidelines, you may still qualify for benefits if you can demonstrate that your liver disease symptoms are severe enough that you can’t be expected to perform any job which you have previously worked at or for which you could potentially be trained.
Those who suffer from liver disease have a wide variety of symptoms, depending on the type and severity of liver disease they are dealing with. Common symptoms include jaundice, weight loss, appetite loss, headaches, abdominal pain, depression, mood swings, frequent urination, and constant and abnormal thirst.
The Effects of Liver Disease on Your Ability to Perform Physical Work
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, the Social Security Administration may or may not deem you completely able of performing any physical work. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must show that you are unable to perform heavy, moderate, or even light physical work for which you are qualified or could reasonably be expected to become qualified.
Symptoms such as abdominal pain and inflammation are important in determining your ability to perform physical work. You will want to be sure to include all physical restrictions your doctor has placed on you, especially those which pertain to your ability to stand, sit, walk, kneel, bend, push, lift, or pull.
Remember that the burden is on you to prove that your liver disease prevents you from performing any meaningful work, so you will want to make sure that you document every area of your life which is affected by your condition.
The Effects of Liver Disease on Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work
The need to urinate frequently can make even sedentary (sit down) jobs implausible for many who suffer from severe liver diseases. Many of the mood affecting symptoms can also make many forms of sedentary work unsuitable for those with liver disease.
As with physical labor, the burden is on you to prove that your liver disease prevents you from engaging in any gainful employment. Keep in mind that your previous work experience, education, and age will all be taken into consideration when determining exactly what types of sedentary jobs you could reasonably be expected to perform.
If you have a higher level of education, it is sometimes more difficult to prove that you are incapable of jobs which do not require much physical exertion. Likewise, if you are younger than 50, it can be more difficult to convince the SSA that you cannot reasonably be trained to perform an unfamiliar type of sedentary work.
Qualifying For Liver Disease With the Blue Book
In order to evaluate your claim for Social Security disability benefits the Social Security Administration will turn to the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. Commonly known as the Blue Book, this comprehensive guide includes information on a large number of conditions and is used to determine whether your condition would prevent you from working.
Chronic liver disease is listed in section 5.05 of the Blue Book and includes conditions like hepatitis (types A, B and C), diseases caused by drugs or alcohol use, or inherited diseases.
With liver disease, there are guidelines used to determine whether your condition meets disability rules. Most of these guidelines are based on the results of blood tests, which means your application should include extensive lab work to support your claim.
Qualifying for Liver Disease Under a Medical Vocational Allowance
In some cases, your condition might not meet the exact guidelines in the Blue Book but you are still unable to perform normal work duties. You might qualify for benefits under a medical vocational allowance, which is based on your actual ability to do work with your diagnosis.
A medical vocational allowance examines the applicant’s education, work history, work experience and residual function capacity (RFC) to determine whether reasonable accommodations would allow you to work in some capacity, either through modifications at your current position or in a different job based upon your experience. The residual function capacity is very important because this determines the maximum amount of work that you are capable of performing given your diagnosis.
The medical vocational allowance, in conjunction with your RFC, takes into consideration whether you are able to perform the physical and mental demands of day to day work activities. Physical demands include being able to sit or stand, walking, lifting items and carrying them, holding something and being able to bend over. Mental activities include being able to read, being able to communicate and being able to remember and follow directions and procedures.
The SSA will evaluate your application and your RFC to determine whether accommodations or modifications can be made based on the work that you are able to perform, whether it is working at your current job or in a different line of work based on your ability. If you cannot stand for prolonged periods of time but your work requires that you stand up, then you might be able to work in a job that allows you to sit for the duration of your shift.
However, if your liver disease makes it impossible to remain upright for long periods of time, or if your medication makes it difficult for you to remember tasks at work, then the medical vocational allowance might help qualify you for disability benefits.
The most important thing to remember when applying for disability benefits is that the information you provide in your application is all that the SSA evaluators have to go on, and so it is up to you to provide as much information as possible to demonstrate that you are unable to work. To increase the chances of approval, you should work with your doctor to document your condition and related side effects so that this can be included in your application.
Consult with a Social Security Attorney
If your initial claim for Social Security Disability is denied, seek the advice and representation of an experienced Social Security attorney. Your Social Security Disability lawyer can help you determine if your case is likely to win on appeal and will also know the best ways to go about handling the appeals process for you.