Malnutrition is a broad term often used to define the state of undernutrition that occurs due to lack of nourishment or disease. It is a state in which a person does not have an adequate intake of calories and nutrients for sustenance or growth, or cannot use the calories she ingests due to illness.
If you have a medical condition that has caused you to become clinically malnourished despite treatment, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has strict criteria you must meet to collect benefits, though. For a free case evaluation with a disability lawyer to see if you might qualify for Social Security disability for malnutrition in Pittsburgh, call Berger and Green at 412-661-1400.
How does the SSA evaluate malnutrition?
The SSA keeps a Listing of Impairments that describes conditions that it deems potentially disabling. Malnutrition is not on the list. Rather, the SSA evaluates malnutrition as it relates to a digestive disorder or an eating disorder. For instance, if your malnutrition results from a condition such as inflammatory bowel disease or anorexia, the claims examiner will evaluate your condition under the respective listing.
People with severe malnutrition can also qualify as disabled under Listing 5.08: Weight loss due to any digestive disorder. The guidelines stipulate that to be disabled under this listing, you must have a BMI of less than 17.50 calculated on two evaluations at least 60 days apart within a consecutive 6-month period, despite continuing treatment as prescribed.
Do I have any options if I do not meet the listing criteria for malnutrition?
If you do not meet the criteria for a listing pertaining to malnutrition, you may qualify if your impairment is limiting enough to keep you from working.
When you submit your application for disability benefits, the claims examiner will review all your medical and mental health records and assess your functional capacities. Many people who are malnourished suffer debilitating signs and symptoms, such as severe fatigue, bone loss, organ failure, endocrine issues, depression, neurological problems, severe weakness, and arrhythmias. Many of these can make working impossible.
If your condition and symptoms are so impairing that you cannot work at your old job and you cannot adjust to new work, the examiner might still classify you as disabled under a medical vocational allowance.
What other criteria must I meet to collect disability benefits?
Once you have met the SSA’s definition of disability or qualified under a medical vocational allowance, there are several more criteria you must meet to collect disability benefits:
- Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last a year or longer or result in death.
- Your condition must prevent you from working in any significant capacity. The SSA calls this “engaging in substantial gainful activity” or SGA. If you earn $1,170 or more a month, the SSA considers you engaging in SGA and will not deem you disabled.
In addition to the above requirements, you must also meet certain financial or work history criteria. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants must prove their income is below $735 and that they have less than $2,000 in resources ($3,000 if married). Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants will need to have a certain number of work credits on their record to qualify.
The requirements are technical and contingent upon your age, marital status, and circumstances.
How do I prove that my malnutrition is disabling to the SSA?
You must provide detailed medical evidence from acceptable sources to prove your disability. The SSA explains: “We need a record of your medical evidence, including clinical and laboratory findings. The documentation should include appropriate medically acceptable imaging studies and reports of endoscopy, operations, and pathology, as appropriate” to the listing for your impairment.
The SSA will want to see your records from all medical and mental health professionals who have treated you for your malnutrition and its related conditions and symptoms. This includes your records from your general doctor, hospital, clinics, and specialists. The SSA will also review your own testimony of your condition and limitations, as well as letters from your family, friends, and employer about how your condition affects your ability to work.
The more evidence you can provide, the better you can substantiate your claim. In fact, lack of sufficient medical proof is one the primary reasons the SSA denies disability applications.
Berger and Green can help the SSA collect the evidence you need for your case. We can talk to medical professionals, help you obtain second and third opinions, and ensure the records you submit to the SSA are thorough and accurate. This gives you the best chance of getting your benefits approved.
What do I do if the SSA denied my malnutrition disability claim?
If you recently received a letter from the SSA denying your claim for benefits for your malnutrition, you can appeal the SSA’s decision. We can help.
However, the process is not easy. We will need to determine why the SSA denied your claim and prepare your case for a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ).
You must take action quickly because there is a strict 60-day time limit on filing for an appeal. Discuss your case with our Social Security disability lawyer in Pittsburgh for help with the appeals process. Bring your letter of denial and any other pertinent documents you have on hand with you to the consultation.
Call Berger and Green at 412-661-1400 and request a free consultation at your convenience.