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Hepatitis and Social Security Disability

Hepatitis - Condition and Symptoms

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. In some cases, the liver heals on its own. In other cases, the condition can lead to fibrosis and cirrhosis. Persons with Hepatitis often have jaundice, poor appetite, and generally feel unwell, while some present no symptoms. Acute Hepatitis lasts less than six months and chronic Hepatitis lasts longer than six months. Hepatitis viruses (Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C) cause most cases of hepatitis; other causes are alcohol, certain medications, plants, infections, and autoimmune diseases. Each type of hepatitis has different symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Hepatitis A, also called infectious hepatitis, is caused by a virus that lives in the stool of an infected person. It is spread when someone ingests something contaminated by the stool. It can be a mild infection and may be asymptomatic. Although the Hepatitis A virus can last up to six months, it is usually more short-lived and does not cause chronic liver disease. Hepatitis B, also known as serum hepatitis, is caused by a virus that spreads from an infected person’s body fluids (blood, urine, etc.), a contaminated blood transfusion, contaminated needles or syringes, sexual activity, and from an infected mother to her newborn baby. This virus causes symptoms ranging from flu-like feelings to chronic liver disease and liver cancer.

Hepatitis C is a virus spread by direct contact with an infected person's blood, through sharing needles, blood transfusions, transmission from an infected mother to her newborn baby, unclean tattoo or body piercing equipment, kidney dialysis, and, rarely, sexual contact. Hepatitis C can lead to chronic liver disease and the need for a liver transplant. If your doctor suspects that you have Hepatitis, he or she will perform blood tests to look for antigens and antibodies characteristic of the disease. When symptoms are present in the early stages of Hepatitis, people often complain of nonspecific flu-like symptoms, including aching muscles and joints, headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In addition, a person may lose appetite, notice dark urine and a yellowing of the eyes and skin, and abdominal pain or discomfort.

People with chronic Hepatitis often complain of malaise, weakness, and fatigue that can clear up with time, even though the disease lingers. Jaundice indicates severe liver damage. Extensive damage and scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) leads to weight loss, easy bruising and bleeding tendencies, swelling of the legs, and accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. No treatment is necessary for Hepatitis A because it usually goes away on its own. Hepatitis B and C are treated with antiviral medications. A person with a severely damaged liver may consider a liver transplant.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Diagnosis of Hepatitis

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers Hepatitis under Section 5.00 of the Blue Book, Digestive – Adult. The specific listing for Hepatitis is found under Section 5.05, and to meet this listing for purposes of qualifying for disability benefits, your medical records must indicate one of the following:

  1. Esophageal varices with a documented history of massive hemorrhaging as a result; OR
  2. Having had a shunt operation due to esophageal varices; OR
  3. Pathologic fluid collection in the abdomen for three months or more that has required removal of such fluid or hypoalbuminemia, which is low levels of a major human protein needed for the synthesis of molecules in the body; OR
  4. Hepatic Encephalopathy; OR
  5. High levels of bilirubin in the blood (2.5 mg per 100 ml. or more), on repeat exams for at least three months; OR
  6. A confirmed diagnosis of chronic liver disease with ascites as mentioned in item 3, or with serum bilirubin levels as mentioned in item 5, or with inflammation of the liver or cellular death of tissue within the liver (hepatic cell necrosis) for at least three months. This is demonstrated by a blood test showing abnormal prothrombin time (PT), a measure of how long it takes blood to clot, as well as blood tests indicating abnormal levels of other liver enzymes.

In addition to documenting these requirements, you must also have a medical diagnosis of Hepatitis which is supported by a liver biopsy.

Even if you are unable to meet this listing, you can still file for disability benefits in the form of a medical vocational allowance. You will be considered for this allowance if your symptoms are such that you are unable to function at work and your condition is not expected to improve for a period of not less than 12 months, even with medical treatment.

Your Hepatitis Disability Case

If you are disabled because of Hepatitis that is so severe it prevents you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Working closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security disability attorney or advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation to support your disability claim in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS) can help to ensure that your Hepatitis disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.