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Paraneoplastic Pemphigus and Social Security Disability

Fighting the battle against severely debilitating diseases and conditions can be made easier with the help of Social Security Disability benefits. Without the help of this income, many people would not be able to afford even the most basic daily needs.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to receive a positive determination for disability benefits because of SSA budget cuts, the increase in applicants, and the stringent qualifications which must be met.

More than 50% of initial applications for disability benefits are denied. While the appeals process greatly increases your chances of a redetermination, it may take several months or even years for your case to be heard. Meanwhile, unable to work, you may be in desperate need of income.

For these and numerous other reasons, the SSA developed the Compassionate Allowance program starting in 2008, designed to ensure priority processing to cases which are pre-determined to qualify for disability. The list of 113 conditions, most recently updated in the fall of 2011, covers some of the rarest, most debilitating and fatal diseases documented. If you are diagnosed with one of these Compassionate Allowances, your case will be processed in as little as a few weeks, providing you with the benefits and assistance your condition needs.

Paraneoplastic Pemphigus – Conditions & Symptoms

Paraneoplastic pemphigus is one of the rarest and most severe forms of a grouping of conditions known as pemphigus, autoimmune diseases which attack the skin and mucous membranes and leave large blisters. Essentially, pemphigus is caused from antibodies which attack the substance which binds the layers of the epidermis, causing them to separate from each other, rub off, and form blisters and sores.

The three forms of pemphigus are:

  • pemphigus vulgaris - the most common
  • pemphigus foliaceus - the least severe
  • paraneoplastic pemphigus (PNP) - the most rare and most severe

Pemphigus vulgaris results in painful sores in the mouth.

Pemphigus foliaceus affects only the outer layer of skin and causes dry, flaky skin on the scalp and other areas of the body. It is often mistaken for eczema or dermatitis.

Paraneoplastic pemphigus is a condition which is seen in patients who have certain cancers, usually lymphoma, leukemia, and Castleman’s disease. If the patient is not diagnosed with cancer yet, PNP is nearly always an indication that there is a cancerous tumor in the body.

The symptoms of PNP are very similar to pemphigus vulgaris but more widespread, including blisters and sores in the mouth, on the lips, in the throat, and even in the lungs. If PNP gets into the lungs, it can cause serious damage to the bronchiole tubes and result in serious respiratory problems. While PNP symptoms usually subside once the cancerous tumor is removed, damage to the fragile tissues of the lungs cannot be repaired.

Depending at which stage your PNP is detected and treated, your chances of full recovery will vary. The greatest threat from PNP is infection and tissue damage. Antibiotics and steroids are necessary to fight the infection caused by the open sores and allow healing to occur, and pain medications are usually prescribed. If your case is more severe, immunosuppressant drugs may be necessary to slow or stop the progression of the lesions, especially if they have reached the lungs.

Applying for Social Security Disability with a Paraneoplastic Pemphigus Diagnosis

A diagnosis of PNP is devastating, especially if it is a precursor or accompaniment to a cancer diagnosis. Receiving immediate treatment for your cancer and PNP is essential to avoid serious infections, spreading of the disease, and further damage to the tissues of the body.

With the help of the Compassionate Allowance program, your application for Social Security Disability will processed on a priority basis, provided you include all of the medical evidence for your diagnosis.

Although your PNP may first be detected by an oral, ocular, or other specialized health professional, It is important that you are examined by a dermatologist to establish the general conditions associated with pemphigus, performed by immunofluorescence and biopsies. In addition, a PNP diagnosis is contingent upon your tumor diagnosis, since it is an effect of the tumor. Although mostly associated with lymphoproliferative neoplasm, PNP has been known to occur with other types of tumors.

The SSA will use your medical documentation to immediately identify your case as qualifying for a Compassionate Allowance, thereby streamlining your application process since the debilitating conditions of this disease are already established. You will, of course, have to meet other basic program requirements.

Your Paraneoplastic Pemphigus Disability Case

Once you have filed for disability with a solid diagnosis of paraneoplastic pemphigus, you can expect your determination within a few weeks. Having a condition which qualifies you for a Compassionate Allowance is not a guarantee that you will be approved for benefits, however. Ensuring that all your documentation is accurate, up to date, and complete is essential. With the help of a Social Security Disability lawyer who is trained to assist applicants like your, the assurance of receiving a positive determination will be that much more definite.