If you are unable to work due to a disability, then you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Specifically, based on your specific circumstances, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
An individual may qualify for SSDI and/or SSI for any number of conditions, including chronic liver disease or cirrhosis. If your liver disease has progressed to the point where you can no longer work, then your application for disability benefits may be approved. An experienced disability benefits lawyer can help you with the process.
At Bross & Frankel, our attorneys are dedicated to helping people with disabilities get the financial compensation that they need. We have decades of combined experience representing individuals with all types of physical and mental health conditions, working hard to get them Social Security disability and other types of disability benefits. Give our law firm a call today to schedule a free claim review.
Can You Work with Liver Disease/Cirrhosis?
If you have been diagnosed with liver disease or cirrhosis of the liver, then you may or may not be able to work depending on your symptoms. In the early stages of liver disease, symptoms are often mild and may include things like jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes), loss of appetite, and weight loss. At this point, it may still be possible to work full-time or part-time with liver disease.
However, as liver disease progresses, more and more scar tissue may form, causing cirrhosis of the liver. This scar tissue, or fibrosis, makes it difficult for the liver to function. At this point, cirrhosis symptoms may include abdominal pain and swelling, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and swelling in the ankles and legs.
In late-stage or end-stage liver disease, it may be difficult or even impossible to hold down a job due to the severity of symptoms. A person with advanced cirrhosis may also experience liver failure, which can cause internal bleeding, confusion from the build-up of toxins in the blood (encephalopathy), and other serious complications. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you probably won’t be able to continue to work and may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Getting Disability for Liver Disease or Cirrhosis
It may be possible to qualify for disability for liver disease or cirrhosis. Your eligibility for benefits depends in part on the severity of your symptoms and whether you are able to work.
The first step is to prove that you are disabled under the SSA’s definition of disability. Generally, a person may be considered to be disabled if they are unable to work for a period of 12 months or longer due to a medical condition or mental health condition, or if their condition is expected to be terminal.
The SSA uses a five-step sequential process to determine if a person is disabled:
- If you are working, then you cannot earn more than a set amount, known as substantial gainful activity (SGA). For 2022, SGA is $1,350 for people who are not blind.
- Your impairment or combination of impairments must significantly limit your ability to perform basic work and is either expected to last for a year or longer or to result in death.
- Your impairment must either meet or exceed all of the requirements on the SSA’s listing of impairments (blue book), or it must have other factors that equal a listed impairment.
- If your impairment does not meet or exceed this criteria, then it must prevent you from performing any of your past work.
- You must not be able to perform any other type of work, based on your condition, age, education, past work experience, and job skills.
It may be possible to qualify for SSDI and/or SSI based on a liver disease or cirrhosis diagnosis if your condition is severe enough that you are unable to work. The SSA evaluates liver disease and cirrhosis under its listing for chronic liver disease. You may meet or exceed this listing if you have been diagnosed with end-stage liver disease or chronic liver disease and have:
- excess fluid in the peritoneal cavity (called ascites) or the pleural cavity (called hydrothorax)
- spontaneous bacterial peritonitis
- esophageal or gastrointestinal hemorrhage
- hepatorenal syndrome
- hepatopulmonary syndrome
- hepatic encephalopathy, or
- end-stage liver disease with SSA CLD scores of 22 or greater.
To be approved for Social Security disability benefits for liver disease or cirrhosis, you will be required to provide medical evidence that proves that your condition meets or exceeds the criteria set forth in the listing of impairment for chronic liver disease. Typically, this involves submitting medical records that document a diagnosis, complete with physical findings, lab values for liver enzymes, and notes on treatment and prognosis.
Even if you do not meet the requirements of the listing, you may still be eligible for disability benefits if your liver disease prevents you from working. The SSA will assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) to determine if there is any type of work that you can do given your symptoms and limitations.
For example, if your cirrhosis causes extreme fatigue and pain that makes it difficult to work for longer than ten minutes at a time, then your RFC will note these limitations. Alternatively, if you are experiencing a high degree of swelling and fluid in your abdominal cavity, then an RFC exam may find that you are unable to work in either your past occupation or any other job. The key is that a medical professional connects the symptoms that you are currently experiencing from chronic liver disease with an inability to work.
If the SSA finds that you are able to perform your past work or that there is other sedentary work that you can do, then your application for disability benefits will likely be denied. However, it is possible to appeal a denial of SSDI and/or SSI benefits. An experienced New Jersey disability attorney can help you with the process.
Automatic Approval for SSDI/SSI Benefits
It is possible to automatically be approved for Social Security disability benefits for cirrhosis or chronic liver disease if you meet the Blue Book listing for the impairment. This listing is complex, particularly compared to listings for other impairments. However, you may qualify for automatic approval if you meet the following criteria:
- Hemorrhaging from esophageal, gastric, or ectopic varices or from portal hypertensive gastropathy, demonstrated by endoscopy, x-ray, or other appropriate medically acceptable imaging, resulting in hemodynamic instability and requiring hospitalization for a blood transfusion (at least 2 units); OR
- Ascites (fluid collecting in abdominal spaces) or hydrothorax (collection of serous fluid within pleural cavities) despite continuing treatment, and present during at least 2 evaluations that occur 60 days or greater apart within a 6 month period. Each of these evaluations must be documented by paracentesis or thoracentesis, or appropriate medical imaging (MRI or CAT scan) or physical exam plus a serum albumin of 3.0 g/DL or less or an international normalized ratio (INR) of at least 1.5; OR
- Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis with peritoneal fluid containing an absolute neutrophil count of at least 250 cells/mm3; OR
- Hepatorenal syndrome, with serum creatinine elevation of at least 2 mg/dL, oliguria with 24-hour urine output less than 500 mL, or sodium retention with urine sodium less than 10 mEq per liter; OR
- Hepatopulmonary syndrome, with arterial oxygenation (PaO2) on room air based on where the testing site is located, or documentation f intrapulmonary arteriovenous shunting by contrast-enhanced echocardiography or macro aggregated albumin lung perfusion scan; OR
- Hepatic encephalopathy with documentation of abnormal behavior, cognitive dysfunction, changes in mental status, or altered state of consciousness, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart within a consecutive 6-month period, and history of the transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) or any surgical portosystemic shunt or test results that show asterixis or other fluctuating physical neurological abnormalities, an EEG demonstrating triphasic slow wave activity, serum albumin of 3.0 g/dL or less, or an INR of 1.5 or greater; OR
- End-stage liver disease with SSA CLD scores of 22 or greater.
These criteria are incredibly technical, and generally require either proof of a severe complication of chronic liver disease or evidence of repeated test results over a period of time indicating that the liver disease has progressed in severity. A New Jersey disability benefits attorney can review your medical records to determine if you may qualify for automatic approval for SSDI/SSI benefits.
Does It Matter That I Am an Alcoholic?
When the SSA makes a determination on disability benefits, they are not examining the underlying cause of your condition. Instead, they are focusing on whether you are disabled and how your disability affects your ability to work.
There are a number of different causes of liver disease and cirrhosis. These conditions can be genetic, caused by an autoimmune condition, or triggered by an infection. It may also be caused by lifestyles, such as obesity and alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse, like drug abuse, is a material factor in determining Social Security eligibility. However, Social Security looks to the impact on the disability if the individual ceased abusing alcohol or drugs. In other words, if Social Security would find you disabled, they then look at whether you would still be disabled if you stopped using alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately for cases of cirrhosis, the damage to the liver is usually permanent, even with total abstinence, and so it is less likely to preclude an award of benefits than some other disabilities caused by drug or alcohol abuse.
How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits
If your cirrhosis or liver disease diagnosis has progressed to the point that you are unable to work, then you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If you believe that you are eligible for benefits, the next step is to gather supporting documentation so that you can file an application. You can file your disability claim online, over the phone, or at a local Social Security field office.
Remember: it isn’t enough to simply show that you have chronic liver disease. You also have to show how your cirrhosis affects your ability to work. An NJ benefits attorney can use their knowledge of the system and experience handling similar cases to put together a comprehensive application or appeal for you.
Most claims for SSDI and/or SSI benefits are denied at the initial application level. Working with a seasoned benefits attorney can increase the likelihood of being approved for benefits with your first application. However, even if your benefits claim is denied, you can still file an appeal with the SSA with the help of an attorney.
Is Having Cirrhosis of the Liver Considered a Disability?
For Social Security disability benefits, alcoholic cirrhosis or another form of chronic liver disease may be considered a disability if it meets the criteria set forth in the SSA’s blue book. In addition, the condition must affect your ability to work in some way.
If you have been diagnosed with cirrhosis, then you should reach out to a New Jersey disability benefits attorney as soon as possible for a free claim review. A lawyer can advise you on your potential eligibility for benefits, and help you file an application. Reach out to Bross & Frankel to learn more about how we can help.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My SSDI/SSI Claim for Liver Disease?
It is possible to file a claim for Social Security disability benefits by yourself. However, because the medical criteria and evidence required to be approved for chronic liver disease or cirrhosis are complex, having a lawyer can increase the odds of having your claim approved. An attorney can gather the necessary evidence and work with experts to develop a strong case for disability benefits.
The attorneys of Bross & Frankel have handled thousands of Social Security disability cases on behalf of clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Call our law office today to schedule a free claim review.
Can I Apply for SSDI for Liver Disease If I Have Only Been Out of Work for a Few Months?
It depends. If you are currently unable to work because of your liver disease and expect that you won’t be able to work for at least one year, then you don’t have to wait to apply for Social Security disability. If you anticipate being able to return to work in under a year, then you will not qualify for SSDI.
It is possible to be approved for SSDI even if you are working – as long as you don’t earn more than a maximum amount, known as substantial gainful activity. If you have questions about your eligibility for SSDI for liver disease or cirrhosis, reach out to Bross & Frankel today to schedule a free claim review.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
If you have been diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, chronic liver disease, or cirrhosis, you may be entitled to SSDI and/or SSI if your condition leaves you unable to work. Getting approved for disability benefits can be challenging. Our law firm can help.
At Bross & Frankel, our legal practice is dedicated to helping people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania get the disability benefits that they are entitled to under the law. We represent clients at all levels before the SSA, as well as in applications for veterans’ disability benefits and long-term disability insurance. To learn more about how we can help you or to schedule a free claim review, call our office today at (866) 694-7952 or contact us online.
Rich Frankel is the managing partner of Bross & Frankel. He is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars. He has focused exclusively on disability and social security benefits since 2005.
Mr. Frankel joined what is now Bross & Frankel after having watched his father struggle with disability, fighting a lengthy illness. Mr. Frankel founded the firm’s veteran’s law practice and substantially grew the social security disability practice, focusing Bross & Frankel’s ability to fight for all of the disability benefits available to his clients.
Mr. Frankel additionally fights for clients in court, obtaining frequent victories in Social Security appeals and against insurance companies in Federal court.