Cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases can make it impossible to work, leaving you and your family in serious financial distress. If your doctor diagnosed you with this condition and your symptoms or treatment side effects prevent you from earning a living, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) for cirrhosis. Depending on your qualifications, these disability benefits may include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
At Berger and Green, we have a team of Pittsburgh disability lawyers who understand the ins and outs of disability qualifications and know how to navigate the application process. We can help you understand your eligibility, explain the importance of having the right medical documentation, and double-check your information before you apply for benefits. If the Social Security Administration (SSA) already denied your claim, we can go to work immediately to help you get the full benefits you deserve during the appeals process. You can reach our office at 412-661-1400. Call today for a complimentary consultation.
Is Cirrhosis a Qualifying Impairment Under Social Security Guidelines?
You will not qualify for benefits just by having a cirrhosis diagnosis. Instead, you need to meet certain criteria outlined in the SSA’s book of impairment listings. This is sometimes known as the Blue Book. Cirrhosis and the qualifications you must meet are in Section 5.05 – Chronic Liver Disease.
To get disability benefits based on your diagnosis, your medical records must show you suffer from cirrhosis or another chronic liver disease, and have one or more serious complications. These complications may include:
- Gastrointestinal tract bleeding;
- Fluid in the peritoneal cavity, or ascites;
- Fluid in the pleural cavity, called hydrothorax;
- Bacterial peritonitis;
- Kidney failure related to your condition, such as hepatorenal syndrome;
- Hepatopulmonary syndrome with difficulty breathing;
- Hepatic encephalopathy; or
- Cirrhosis that is likely to cause your death.
In some cases, your cirrhosis-related complications may qualify you for benefits even if you do not meet the criteria listed for chronic liver disease. Diabetes, for example, can occur in conjunction with cirrhosis. If your diabetes is severe, you might qualify for benefits based on that diagnosis instead of your cirrhosis.
It is a good idea to discuss your need for SSD benefits and your intent to file a claim with your doctor. They can work with you to help you understand your qualifications, accurately document your condition in your medical records, and work with the SSA to ensure it gets the information it needs to make a determination in your case.
Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits If I Do Not Meet an Impairment Listing?
You may still qualify for SSD benefits even if you do not meet the criteria under an applicable impairment listing. Once the SSA sees that you do not meet an impairment listing, it will consider your residual functional capacity (RFC).
Your RFC is a measurement of your abilities. The SSA uses it to determine if you are able to work, what type of work you can complete, and how long you can sustain certain activities. There are three ways to receive an RFC:
- The SSA’s disability examiner reviews your medical records and other documentation;
- Your physician completes a special worksheet and submits documentation; or
- The SSA schedules—and pays for—an examination with an outside practitioner.
When conducting an RFC examination or review of your records, the doctor will consider your ability to perform specific activities related to working and completing daily tasks. If they find you cannot work at any job you qualify for, you will likely qualify for disability based on your RFC.
Our attorneys have seen the RFC process help numerous clients get the benefits they need. If you do not meet the SSA’s Blue Book criteria for cirrhosis, contact us. We can help determine if the process might benefit your case.
Are There Other Qualifications for SSD Benefits?
Many denials stem from problems with proving you suffer from a qualifying medical impairment. However, there are also other criteria you have to meet in order to gain approval for benefits. These criteria vary between the SSA’s different programs.
SSDI, for example, requires you to have a long enough work history—and enough work credits—to qualify. The number of work credits you need depends on your age. There is also a limit to the earned income you can bring home each month, known as the substantial gainful activity (SGA) limit. This is not a limit on your overall income, but a way to measure your ability to earn a living. It includes only income you earn from working.
SSI, on the other hand, is a need-based program. To qualify for SSI benefits, you must meet strict monthly income limits. Most types of income count toward this limit. In addition, you need to have few assets. Your home, primary vehicle, work tools, and some other assets do not count against this total. SSI has no work history requirements, meaning you can qualify even if you have not worked.
What If the SSA Denies My Disability Application?
Most people who qualify for disability benefits do not get approval based on their initial claim. Many qualified applicants must navigate the appeals process to get the benefits they need and deserve. If you received a denial, we can help you schedule an appeals hearing and fight for the monthly payments you need.
We will get your case on the calendar of the administrative law judge and launch a full investigation to determine why the SSA did not approve your application previously. Then, we will collect evidence to present in your hearing to show why you meet all of the criteria for benefits. Usually, we can get the denial overturned for qualifying clients during this hearing. If not, we can take further steps to appeal the decision.
How Can I Talk to a Pittsburgh Disability Attorney About Getting Benefits for Cirrhosis?
Berger and Green can help you get the disability benefits you need and deserve. This can help you make ends meet for your family when you can no longer work. Call us today at 412-661-1400 for a free evaluation or to get started on an appeal.