Dermatitis and Social Security Disability

Dermatitis – Condition and Symptoms

Dermatitis is a generalized term used to describe skin inflammation. The three most common forms of dermatitis are:

  • Contact dermatitis. Caused by an irritating substance or an allergen. Roughly 80% of all dermatitis cases fall under this category.
  • Atopic dermatitis. Generally strikes city dwellers in areas with low humidity. Typical areas of the body affected include the arms, backs of knees, face, hands, and wrists. Sometimes it also affects a person behind the ears or on other body parts.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis. Predominantly affects men between the ages of 30 and 70 and infants. It also occurs in the majority of AIDS cases. This type of dermatitis generally develops gradually, causing dandruff and hair loss, pimples at the hair line, nose, ears, eyebrows, back, and chest. When it affects infants, it typically accompanies diaper rash.

Other, less common, forms of dermatitis, categorized by their causes, include:

  • Herpetiformis. Occurs as the result of a GI infection. Sometimes called celiac disease, it is characterized mainly by stinging, burning, and itchiness. Small red colored bumps often appear on the skin. Typical parts of the body affected are the scalp, shoulders, neck, elbows, knees, lower back and buttocks.
  • Nummular. Cause is unknown, but tends to strike people from the ages of 40-55
  • Perioral. Typically appears in women between the ages of 20 and 60 and is similar to rosacea, causing bumpy red rashes around the mouth area.
  • Stasis. Caused by a buildup of fluid and blood in the lower legs, usually affects people with varicose veins.

The exact symptoms of dermatitis vary depending on the type, extent, and severity. Typical symptoms which are common to all forms of dermatitis include, but are not limited to:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Skin redness
  • Scarring
  • Skin lesions (often oozing)

In some cases, flare ups of dermatitis are limited to a particular part of the body, often the wrists, forearms, ankles, thighs, or neck. Occasionally, the skin will also be itchy around the genitals.

The causes of dermatitis are as varied as its symptoms, and include everything from genetic factors to allergens and pollutants. Common irritants include soaps, bleaches, and detergents. Less common (but still significant causes of dermatitis include jewelry, weeds (poison ivy, poison oak, etc.), some kinds of antibiotic cream, cosmetics, metal (especially nickel), rubber, perfumes and fragrances. In some cases, neurological factors also contribute to the onset of dermatitis.

Filing for Disability with your Dermatitis Diagnosis

Dermatitis is by no means a shoe-in condition for Social Security disability benefits. When determining complete disability, the SSA will take into account how extensive your skin lesions are, what part(s) of the body they affect, the severity of the symptoms, the frequency of your flare ups, how you respond to treatment, and (most importantly) how your combination of symptoms, including your pain, affects your ability to perform day to day tasks which would be expected on a job site.

It is important that you remain under a physician’s care and that all treatment is fully documented, including your response (or lack thereof) to it. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your condition must continue to hinder you from performing work despite being under medical treatment for at least three months.

Generally speaking, to qualify for benefits with dermatitis, your disabling condition needs to affect both arms/hands, both legs/feet, or one arm and one leg severely enough that you are unable to use them to perform work or your ability to walk from one place to another. The specifics of the SSA’s requirements for skin disorders are covered in Section 8.00 of the Blue Book. Dermatitis, in particular is covered in Section 8.05.

When you file your disability claim, make sure that you have full medical documentation for all flare ups and treatments. It is best if the doctor includes descriptive analysis regarding what kinds of activities you are hindered from performing rather than simply reporting medical finding which may or may not convince an SSA examiner that you are incapable of continuing to work.

Your Dermatitis Disability Case

When dealing with a condition whose severity is open to a certain amount of interpretation, both by you and your doctor and a Social Security Administration adjudicator, it’s a good idea to have a Social Security disability lawyer to help you make your case for disability benefits.

More than anyone else (including your doctor), a disability attorney knows what the SSA is looking for and what it needs to see in your claim and medical files before they will approve your claim. Hiring a Social Security disability lawyer won’t cost you anything unless you are awarded benefits, and even then all of his or her compensation comes from the amount of back pay which you will receive when you first start collecting benefit payments, ensuring that your ongoing benefits can be used for their intended purpose- taking care of your own financial needs.