Liver disease is one of several disorders of the digestive system that may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Before you apply, make sure your condition meets the following criteria to qualify as a disabling condition.
How Chronic Liver Disease is Evaluated
The Social Security Administration (SSA) characterizes chronic liver disease as by liver cell necrosis, inflammation, or fibrosis/cirrhosis that persists for more than six months. Additionally, liver disease can lead to conditions like portal hypertension, bile flow suppression, extrahepatic manifestations, or liver cancer, notes the SSA. However, the agency evaluates liver cancer under the cancer section of its Listings of Impairments. Those claiming disability for chronic liver disease may have signs and symptoms including: fatigue; loss of appetite; jaundice; nausea; enlargement of the liver and spleen; peripheral edema; and altered mental status. Disability claimants may submit tests to show evidence of increased liver enzymes, decreased serum albumin, increased ammonia levels, or abnormal coagulation studies. A liver biopsy may be necessary to determine the degree of severity of damage done by liver disease and imaging studies may be required to show evidence of an enlarged or fatty liver.
Examples of Chronic Liver Disease
Many health conditions are connected with chronic liver disease including, but not limited to: alcoholic liver disease; non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; primary biliary cirrhosis; chronic hepatitis; primary sclerosing cholangitis; Wilson's disease; hemochromatosis; autoimmune hepatitis; drug-induced liver disease, and serum alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. To meet the conditions for disability benefits, a person with one of these health conditions must have been diagnosed with the condition 12 months or more prior to filing for disability benefits or the condition must be expected to persist for 12 months or more or result in death.
Determining Disability from End Stage Liver Disease
End stage liver disease (ESLD) is evaluated using the Social Security Administration's Chronic Liver Disease (SSA CLD) calculation. The SSA will need your serum total bilirubin, serum creatinine, and International Normalized Ratio to calculate your score. If your scores are 22 or greater, disability will be considered from the date of your first score.
If you received a liver transplant, you may be considered disabled for a year after the transplant. Any continued disability is evaluated based on any residual impairments. Your residual impairments will be evaluated based upon the adequacy of your post-transplant liver function, your requirement for post-transplant antiviral therapy, frequency and severity of any rejection episodes, any comorbid complications, and any additional adverse treatment effects.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits
Like any other disabling condition, to claim liver disease as a qualifying disability you must meet the criteria for disability benefits. For Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits you must have your disabling condition evaluated and approved by the SSA. Additionally you must show that you are no longer able to perform your previous occupations or any other work for which you are suited. You must also show adequate work credits where you paid into the Social Security funds. For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) you must meet the criteria to be considered disabled, be unable to work, and have limited income or resources.
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