If you have ever experienced gastrointestinal distress, you know firsthand how difficult it can be to work when you need to run to the bathroom frequently or if you have severe cramping and pain. For some people, this type of illness happens all too frequently due to an inflammation of their digestive tract. Crohn’s disease can have serious, life-changing symptoms for anyone affected by it.
Maintaining employment with a condition like Crohn’s disease can be incredibly difficult. Beyond the symptoms of the disease itself, the treatments for Crohn’s can impact your ability to work. In these situations, you may qualify for disability benefits to help you maintain financial stability while you focus on your health.
Obtaining disability benefits can be challenging, particularly when you are already suffering from a serious health issue. A skilled New Jersey disability benefits attorney can work with you to help you get the benefits that you both need and deserve.
What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. It can cause a range of problems, including abdominal pain, weight loss, severe diarrhea, fatigue, and malnutrition. Crohn’s disease can be incredibly painful and debilitating, and may even lead to life-threatening complications.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease vary based on which segment of the intestines is affected. These symptoms may be mild to severe and can develop gradually or come on suddenly. Signs and symptoms of active Crohn’s disease may include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Mouth sores
- Blood in the stool
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Pain or drainage near or around the anus from fistulas
- Inflammation of the skin, eyes, and joints
- Inflammation of the liver or bile ducts
- In children, delayed growth or sexual development
While the specific cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, a virus or bacterium may trigger the immune system to attack cells in the digestive tract, causing inflammation. There appears to be a genetic link in Crohn’s disease, although most people with this condition do not have a family history of the disease.
Crohn’s disease can cause a number of serious complications, such as:
- Bowel obstruction
- Fistulas (ulcers that extend through the intestinal wall)
- Anal fissure
- Colon cancer
- Skin disorders
- Gallbladder disease
- Liver disease
Crohn’s disease is diagnosed using a number of tests, including blood tests for anemia or infection and/or a fecal occult blood test. In addition, a colonoscopy, a CT scan, an MRI, a capsule endoscopy, and/or a balloon-assisted enteroscopy may be used to aid in diagnosis.
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, and treatments that may work for one person may not in another. Medication to reduce the inflammation in the digestive tract may be used, such as a corticosteroid or other anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, pain relievers, anti-diarrheal medicine, and various supplements. In some cases, a feeding tube may be used to provide nutrition.
If these treatments do not work, surgery may be performed to remove a damaged portion of the digestive tract or to close fistulas and drain abscesses. However, the results of surgery are usually temporary, as Crohn’s disease may recur, particularly near the portion of the digestive tract that has been reconnected.
Can You Get Disability for Crohn’s Disease?
If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, you may qualify for disability benefits if your condition is so severe that it impacts your ability to work. Because Crohn’s disease often involves debilitating symptoms — even when undergoing treatment — a person with Crohn’s may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and/or long term disability (LTD) benefits through an insurance policy.
The key to being approved for any type of disability benefit, whether it be LTD or SSDI, for Crohn’s disease is demonstrating how it impacts your ability to work. For LTD benefits, this may include showing that you cannot work because of the signs and symptoms of the illness. When applying for SSDI benefits, you will be required to submit evidence that your Crohn’s disease meets the criteria set forth by the government.
Qualifications for Getting Disability with Crohn’s
The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a “listing of impairments.” This list includes both medical and mental health conditions that are considered severe enough to prevent a person from working.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is included in the SSA’s listing of impairments. Because Crohn’s disease is a type of IBD, if you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may qualify for SSDI benefits. To do so, you must submit proof of the following:
- A diagnosis of IBD, documented by the results of an endoscopy, biopsy, appropriate imaging, or operative findings;
- Obstruction of stenotic areas in the small intestine or colon with proximal dilation. This condition must be confirmed either by imaging or surgery, must have required hospitalization for intestinal decompression or for surgery, and must have occurred at least twice, 60 days or more apart, in a 6 month period;
- Two of the following issues despite continuing prescribed treatment, occurring within the same consecutive 6 month period:
- Anemia with hemoglobin of less than 10.0 g/dL, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or
- Serum albumin of 3.0 g/dL or less, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or
- Clinically documented tender abdominal mass palpable on physical examination with abdominal pain or cramping that is not completely controlled by prescribed narcotic medication, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or
- Perineal disease with a draining abscess or fistula, with pain that is not completely controlled by prescribed narcotic medication, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or
- Involuntary weight loss of at least 10 percent from baseline, as computed in pounds, kilograms, or BMI, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or
- Need for supplemental daily enteral nutrition via a gastrostomy or daily parenteral nutrition via a central venous catheter.
Because Crohn’s disease is a qualifying disorder for purposes of SSDI benefits, a person with this diagnosis may qualify for benefits. However, to be awarded SSDI benefits, you must meet the above-listed criteria and submit documentation to support their claim. If you are seeking SSDI benefits for Crohn’s disease, you will be required to provide evidence of your diagnosis, treatment history, and how your illness affects your ability to work.
Working with Crohn’s Disease
As described above, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can range considerably. Any or all of these symptoms can make it difficult to work.
For example, a person with severe abdominal pain may find it difficult to sit or stand throughout the day. They may need to lay down to alleviate the pain or to otherwise take breaks so that they feel better. The fatigue that is often associated with Crohn’s disease can also make it difficult to function at work.
In a similar way, a person with chronic diarrhea from Crohn’s disease may need frequent bathroom visits throughout the day that could limit their ability to perform their job duties. If a person suffers from related complications from Crohn’s disease, such as bowel obstruction, they may need to take significant time off of work for surgical or other treatment.
Because Crohn’s disease can seriously affect a person’s ability to work, if you have this condition, you may qualify for federal SSDI benefits. A skilled New Jersey disability benefits lawyer can help you apply for and obtain these benefits.
Next Steps for Receiving Disability Benefits
Approximately 3 million Americans suffer from a form of IBD, including Crohn’s disease. While many people are able to live and work with Crohn’s disease, others suffer from severe symptoms and complications that limit their ability to work. For these people, SSDI benefits may be available.
At Bross & Frankel, we work collaboratively with our clients who are unable to work due to a disability. We will help you put together the initial documentation to obtain SSDI benefits, and will stand by your side throughout the process until the final resolution of your case. To learn more about how we can help or to schedule a free claim review with a New Jersey disability benefits attorney, contact our office today at 856-795-8880, or reach out online.