Patients can develop short bowel syndrome, also called SBS or short gut syndrome, as a result of cancer, Crohn’s disease, volvulus, and other conditions in which portions of the small intestine have been removed. The condition can lead to a host of debilitating issues and complications, such as severe, chronic malnutrition, diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, gallstones, and abdominal pain. Malnutrition can also lead to serious secondary health issues, including anemia, kidney stones, ulcers, problems with blood clotting, and pain in the bones.
There is no cure for SBS, but patients can manage it to a degree with certain medications and dietary changes. In severe cases, patients may need nutritional replacement therapy using an intravenous (IV) or feeding tube. When SBS becomes so impairing that you can no longer work, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
To determine if you qualify for Social Security disability for short bowel syndrome or for help with your disability claim or appeal in Pittsburgh, call Berger and Green and request a free consultation today: 412-661-1400.
Does the SSA consider short bowel syndrome a disability?
SBS is a rare condition, only affecting approximately one out of every million people, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Even still, the Social Security Administration (SSA) understands the severity of the condition and how disabling it can be. In its Blue Book, the SSA keeps a list of impairments that it deems a disability when applicants meet certain severity criteria. Short bowel syndrome is one of the listed conditions, detailed in Section 5.07.
The criteria are as follows:
- Your SBS is the result of surgical resection of more than one-half of your small intestine; and
- You are dependent on daily parenteral nutrition via a central venous catheter.
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How does the SSA evaluate short bowel syndrome?
The SSA will carefully evaluate your application for benefits and your medical records to confirm your SBS is severe enough to merit a determination as disabled. You must provide adequate medical documentation of your diagnosis, the symptoms and effects of your condition, and your prognosis.
Your records should include:
- An operative report of your intestinal resection;
- Details about the surgical findings;
- Medically appropriate postoperative imaging studies that reflect the amount of your residual small intestine; and
- Medical documentation that you are dependent on daily parenteral nutrition to provide most of your nutritional requirements.
“Over time, some [people with SBS] can develop additional intestinal absorptive surface, and may ultimately be able to be weaned off their parenteral nutrition,” the SSA explains. “Your impairment will continue to meet [the listing for SBS] as long as you remain dependent on daily parenteral nutrition via a central venous catheter for most of your nutritional requirements.”
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What other criteria must I meet to collect disability benefits?
When applying for Social Security disability benefits, there are two main points you must prove to the SSA:
- You meet the SSA’s definition of disabled. This is done in one of two ways: either meeting the aforementioned criteria under the listing for short bowel syndrome, or by proving that your SBS is so severe it keeps you from performing basic work-related functions. In other words, if your SBS is not quite listing-level, you may still be able to qualify as disabled if your symptoms, combination of conditions, and complications are so severe that you cannot work.
The SSA will only consider your condition a disability when:
- Your condition has lasted or is expected to last a year or more or result in death;
- You meet the definition of disabled. (The SSA is very strict with this requirement. It does not distribute benefits for partial or short-term disabilities, only for total disabilities lasting a year or more); and
- Your condition prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA), which the SSA defines as having a monthly income of more than $1,170 in 2017.
- You meet the work history or income requirements, depending on which program you are applying for. If you are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a needs-based benefit for children and others with limited work histories, you must show that you have a very limited income (less than the year’s Federal Benefit Rate), and that your total allowable assets and resources amount to less than $2,000.
If you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a benefit for qualified disabled workers, you must have adequate work credits on your record, which you earned by working at a job where you paid Social Security taxes.
To determine if you qualify for benefits, call 412-661-1400 for a free case evaluation in Pittsburgh.
How do I prove my short bowel syndrome claim?
Medical evidence is the crux of any Social Security disability claim. In fact, insufficient medical evidence is the primary reason the SSA denies disability applications. The more supportive evidence you can provide that demonstrates the extent of your SBS and how it impairs your ability to work, the better off your claim will be when the examiner reviews it.
You can also submit evidence from non-medical sources to supplement your application, such as your own personal account of your condition, input from your counselor, and letters from friends, family, co-workers, etc. that explain how your SBS limits you.
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What do I do if the SSA wrongfully denied my disability benefits?
If the SSA has denied your disability claim for short bowel syndrome in Pittsburgh, call Berger and Green for help filing an appeal. We can gather the evidence necessary to fill in any gaps, request that the SSA reconsider its decision, and present your story to the SSA or judge in a clear and convincing manner.
You have only 60 days from the time you received the letter of denial to take action and appeal your case. Contact one of our disability lawyers in Pittsburgh at 412-661-1400 to discuss your case today.