What Digestive System Disorders Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits?

If you suffer from a digestive system disorder that severely affects your life and has left you unable to work, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Many medical conditions can originate in the digestive tract. Your digestive system breaks down the foods that you consume. The tract is lengthy, extending from the anus to the mouth, and attaches to numerous organs, such as the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder which aid with digestion by providing digestive juices.

Changes in bowel habits, severe abdominal pain, bloody stools, and excessive, unexpected weight loss could be signs of digestive disorders. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or others that concern you, you should seek medical care. If your digestive disease keeps you from working, you might qualify for disability benefits. If your digestive disorder meets or equals one of the listings found in the Listing of Impairments in the SSA medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, you will be approved for benefits.

Further Reading: What Conditions Qualify For Disability?

What Digestive System Disorders Qualify For Social Security Disability Benefits?

Can You Get a Disability Benefit For Stomach Problems?

You may be able to get a disability benefit for stomach problems if your disability is severe enough that you are unable to work for at least the following 12 months. If your stomach problem does not meet the criteria in the relevant listing in the Blue Book, there are still ways in which your disability benefits claim could be approved.

You should ensure that your doctor keeps up-to-date notes about your stomach problem including your treatment and results of medical tests. Your doctor can also complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment which will help the SSA determine if you are able to work with your stomach problem. This assessment assesses both your physical and mental abilities.

When you submit your application for disability benefits you shouldn’t leave any empty spaces on the application form. This is because the SSA considers other factors like your age, level of education, marital status, literacy level and ability to speak English.

Apart from evidence provided by your doctor you should also get family and friends to provide you with any notes they have compiled describing how your stomach problem is affecting your quality of life and ability to work. This will help to show the SSA the extent of your disability and how it affects your everyday life.

Finally, contacting a disability attorney to help you with applying for SSDI for your stomach problem may give you the best chance of convincing the SSA.

GI Listings

Gastrointestinal diseases affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract from the mouth through to the anus. There are two types of these diseases which are called functional and structural.

GI listings for disorders of the digestive system can be found in section 5.0 of the Blue Book listing. This includes the following GI disorders:

  • short bowel syndrome;
  • malnutrition;
  • inflammatory bowel disease;
  • hepatic (liver) dysfunction;
  • gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

Some examples of symptoms of these GI diseases include nausea/vomiting, food poisoning, lactose intolerance and diarrhea. These may prevent you from working for the duration of the medical condition.

Because digestive disorders often respond to medical or surgical treatment the SSA considers the severity and duration of these disorders when prescribed treatment is followed. This includes surgery, medication, and therapy to manage the GI disorder.

If you do not qualify with the Blue Listing criteria, you may qualify through a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) assessment. This assesses various limitations that you may have as a result of your GI condition. Your Social Security Disability claims examiner will consult with a disability consultant at the Disability Determination Service (DDS) to arrange an RFC. This is not a physical examination, but the medical consultant will study your medical records, including any doctor’s notes, to determine what physical and mental limitations you have.

Sometimes, your own physician is asked to conduct an RFC. The results of this will determine if you are able to work in the next 12 months. If the results of the RFC show you are unable to work, you may qualify for a disability benefit.

Meeting The Medical Criteria For Disability Benefits

The Blue Book has digestive diseases listed under Listing 5.0. Several different digestive issues are included under this listing. To be approved under this listing, any of the following can apply:

  • Short bowel syndrome
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhaging that requires a blood transfusion
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Weight loss caused by any digestive disorder
  • Liver transplant

Just have a definitive diagnosis of any of these problems doesn’t guarantee that you will be approved for disability benefits, but if you have undergone a liver transplant you will automatically be approved. The individual listing for each of those diseases has specific, complex medical criteria that must be proven via medical records to confirm the severity of your diagnosis.

For example, to be approved for disability benefits with Crohn’s disease, you must be able to provide documentation that confirms one of the following:

Bowel obstruction – You must have proof of an obstruction, not just lesions or adhesions, of narrowed areas of the colon or small intestine with swelling and dilation. The obstruction must be confirmed by medical imaging or a surgical procedure and require hospitalization or surgery to compress the intestinal tract. This obstruction must have happened at least two times, at least 60 days apart, within a six-month timeframe.


Other complications – You can be approved for disability benefits if you have two of the following complications despite undergoing the prescribed treatments. You must experience these two complications within the same six-month timeframe:

Tender mass felt during the physical exam with cramping or abdominal pain that cannot be controlled with prescription pain medication. This must be documented on two medical visits at least 60 days apart.

  • Anemia with hemoglobin of less than 10g/dL during two different blood tests at least 60 days apart.
  • Serum albumin of 3.0 g/dL or less after two blood tests performed at least 60 days apart.
  • Perineal disease with a fistula or a draining abscess with pain that isn’t controlled by prescription medications. This must be documented on two medical visits at least 60 days apart.
  • Unintentional weight loss of at least 10 percent from your starting weight that is documented on at least two medical visits 60 days apart.
  • The necessity for supplemental daily nutrition by a feeding tube in the nose, small intestine, or stomach or by a chest catheter.

To start your disability application, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit www.ssa.gov. A disability attorney will review your case and determine if your condition meets the criteria to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits.

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