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Help for challenging conditions

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks healthy cells. These diseases cause various complications and adverse symptoms for victims in Illinois, including pain, fever, malaise and exhaustion. These effects often interfere with an individual’s ability to work and live independently, as any Social Security lawyer knows. Social Security Disability benefits may be available to help victims with especially debilitating autoimmune conditions.

Meeting a listing

The Social Security Administration includes several immune system disorders in its “Blue Book” of impairment listings. These include lupus, HIV, systemic sclerosis, systemic vasculitis and inflammatory arthritis. Applicants who suffer from a listed condition and meet accompanying criteria may qualify for benefits without further evaluation.

The SSA criteria are based on symptoms specific to each condition. The SSA also establishes more general criteria that applicants can qualify under. Individuals with many autoimmune diseases may receive benefits if they document the following:

  • Recurring manifestations of the condition
  • At least two of these symptoms: fever, malaise, fatigue or inadvertent weight loss
  • Difficulty performing daily living activities, functioning socially or finishing tasks promptly

Medical tests that support an autoimmune disease diagnosis, such as antinuclear antibody tests or complete blood counts, can support an applicant’s claim. Symptoms can also be documented through assessments or statements from a treating physician. A Residual Functional Capacity form, which is completed by a physician, can attest to any physical or cognitive limitations resulting from the disease.

Functional capacity evaluations

If an applicant does not meet the listing criteria for the autoimmune disease, there are other ways to qualify for benefits. The individual could contend that the condition has the same impact and duration as a listed condition. The SSA may find an applicant’s condition “equals” an impairment listing if symptoms are comparable to the listed symptoms.

An applicant could also seek a medical vocational allowance. When granting these allowances, the SSA makes no assumptions about whether a condition is disabling. Instead, the SSA considers an individual’s specific limitations and how those limitations affect working ability.

As an example, if a person suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, the SSA might evaluate how it affects the person’s ability to stand, sit still for prolonged periods and perform fine motor tasks. If these limitations prevent the applicant from performing his or her present job, the SSA judges whether the applicant could work in another capacity. The applicant’s age, work history and education are used to determine whether a new job would be reasonable.

It can be difficult to prove that symptoms “equal” listing symptoms or that functional limitations prevent all forms of employment. Individuals hoping to qualify in these ways often benefit from working with an SSD attorney when completing their applications.