Chronic Liver Disease and Social Security Disability

Chronic Liver Disease takes on many forms, including conditions like hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Each can cause a range of serious symptoms, including fatigue, digestive problems, jaundice, metabolic issues, concentration problems, and mental disorientation.

Some chronic liver conditions qualify for expedited review and approval under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program. Others must proceed through the standard review process. Either way though, chronic liver disease can qualify for benefits as long as it prevents you from working for 12 months or more.

Medically Qualifying with Chronic Liver Disease

The chronic liver disease listing in the SSA’s Blue Book outlines two ways in which you can qualify for benefits:

  • You suffer from end-stage liver disease
  • OR

  • You have chronic liver disease which has lasted six months or longer and includes of the following:
    • Fluid retention in the stomach (peritoneal) or chest (pleural) cavities
    • Bacterial infection in the stomach cavity (peritonitis)
    • Bleeding in the stomach or esophagus
    • Kidney issues (hepatorenal syndrome)
    • Breathing complications and low blood oxygen levels (hepatopulmonary syndrome)
    • Encephalopathy

Other chronic liver conditions that qualify for disability benefits include:

  • Liver transplant surgery – If you have liver transplant surgery, you automatically qualify for disability benefits for a period of one year after the surgery. Your condition is reviewed after 12 months and if you are still disabled, you’ll continue to receive benefits.
  • And

  • Liver cancer – Individuals that suffer from liver cancer may qualify for expedited review of their applications under the SSA’s CAL program. As long as you meet the SSA’s technical eligibility requirements for disability, you will be granted benefits.

No matter how you qualify, medical evidence is essential. Some documentation is specific to each condition. To know for sure what’s required to document your disability, you and your doctor should review the listings in the Blue Book.

There is also certain medical evidence the SSA must see no matter which form of chronic liver disease you suffer from:

  • A thorough clinical history, including onset, extent, and severity of symptoms
  • Imaging results, which may include x-rays, CTs, MRIs, and other scans
  • Treatment information, including the side effects and how they limit your abilities

Even if your chronic liver disease does not meet any of the SSA’s disability listings, you may still qualify for benefits. Your symptoms must cause severe functional limitations and the SSA must see through a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) analysis that you’re unable to work in any job for which you’re otherwise qualified.

Getting Help with Your Chronic Liver Disease Claim

Applying for disability benefits without help can be challenging, especially if your liver disease does cause symptoms that disrupt concentration or cognitive thinking. An attorney can help you through the application process. They can assist with compiling medical evidence and in formulating your RFC limitation argument if necessary.

If you are denied benefits, a Social Security Disability advocate or attorney can also help you appeal the SSA’s decision. They can help you get ready for the appeal hearing and can represent you at the hearing as well.

Additional Resources