Scleroderma can be a very painful condition to live with. Oftentimes the individuals who suffer from this disease find the simplest of everyday tasks a challenge to accomplish. Needless to say, the responsibilities that are associated with full-time employment are absolutely impossible to maintain. If you are suffering from a severe case of scleroderma and are unable to earn an income due to your condition, Social Security Disability benefits may be able to help. The following information will help you understand the disability claim process and how you can improve your chances of a hassle-free approval of your Social Security Disability application.
Scleroderma - Condition and Symptoms
Scleroderma, also known as CREST syndrome, progressive systemic sclerosis and systemic sclerosis, is an autoimmune disease that affects the connective tissue of the body. When an individual is suffering from scleroderma, the skin, muscles, blood vessels and internal organs are commonly affected.
When a person develops scleroderma, the body's immune system mistakes healthy body tissue and views it as a danger. It then begins to attack and destroy the healthy tissue of the body. As the disease progresses, a buildup of collagen begins to appear in the skin and in the other organs of the body, which leads to the symptoms of the disorder. It is common for widespread scleroderma to occur with other conditions, such as systemic lupus and polymyositis. When this occurs, the condition is referred to as a mixed connective disease.
The symptoms of scleroderma will vary depending on the severity of the disease and how far the condition has progressed. In milder cases, the disorder will only affect the skin. In other instances, the whole body may be affected. Common symptoms of scleroderma include extremities turning blue or white in response to temperature, hair loss, hardness of the skin, abnormal skin coloration, thickening of the skin, small white lumps under the skin which may ooze a white substance, ulcers on the fingers or toes, joint pain, numbness and pain in the feet, swelling of the joints, wrist pain, dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, fecal incontinence and difficulty swallowing.
Unfortunately there is no cure for scleroderma and there is no specific treatment for the disease. Instead, doctors will focus on treating the symptoms of the condition to make a patient as comfortable as possible. When a case of scleroderma has progressed and a patient suffers from severe symptoms, it becomes impossible to maintain employment. In cases such as these, Social Security Disability benefits are usually warranted.
Filing for Social Security Disability with Scleroderma
Those who suffer from severe cases of scleroderma are oftentimes relieved to discover that the condition is included in the Social Security Administration (SSA)'s listing of disabling conditions. This specific disorder is listed in Section 14.04 of the Blue Book. According to this Medical Listing, a Social Security Disability applicant may qualify for disability benefits due to a case of scleroderma if one of the organs has been affected by the disease in at least a moderate level of severity and at least two of the constitutional symptoms of the disease are present. An applicant may also qualify for disability benefits due to a case of scleroderma if they are:
- Suffering from toe contractures or deformities of the feet due to the disease, which results in an inability to ambulate effectively.
- Suffering from finger contractures or a fixed deformity in both hands which results in an inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively.
- Suffers from atrophy with irreversible damage in one or both of the lower extremities, which results in an inability move effectively.
- Suffers from atrophy with irreversible damage in both of the upper extremities, which results in the inability to perform fine and gross motor movements in an effective manner.
- Suffers from gangrene involving at least two extremities.
- Suffers from ischemia with ulcerations of the fingers or toes, which results in an inability to effectively perform fine and gross motor movement.
- Suffers from repeated manifestations of the condition with at least two of the symptoms occurring and resulting in limitation of daily activities, limitation in social functioning and limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner.
While the SSA has included scleroderma in its listing of disabling conditions, it is important to note that you must provide the SSA with enough evidence to prove that you meet the Blue Book guidelines in order to be approved for Social Security Disability benefits. This means including a complete copy of your medical records when submitting your claim to the SSA.
You must also take care to answer the questions on the disability claim forms in their entirety. The answers that you provide will help the adjudicator who is reviewing your file understand the severity of your condition and why you qualify for Social Security Disability payments. If you do not provide detailed and thorough answers or sufficient medical evidence, your claim for Social Security Disability benefits may be denied.
Scleroderma and Your Social Security Disability Case
If you are denied benefits during the initial stage of the Social Security Disability claim process, do not give up hope. Nearly 70 percent of disability claims are denied at this stage of the application process. What you will want to do is retain the services of a qualified disability attorney or advocate and appeal the SSA's decision. These professionals can prepare the evidence that is needed to prove your disability, increasing your chances of overturning the SSA's decision to deny your benefits and increasing your chances of getting the financial help you need.