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Liver Disease and Social Security Disability

Liver Disease - Condition and Symptoms

Liver Disease (also called hepatic disease) is a catch-all term that includes numerous diseases affecting the liver, including hepatitis (caused by viruses, poisons, autoimmune disorders, and hereditary conditions), non-alcoholic fatty Liver Disease (associated with obesity), cirrhosis (formation of fibrous tissue which replaced dead liver cells), haemochromatosis(hereditary disease causing the accumulation of iron in the body), cancer, Wilson’s disease (heredity disease causing accumulation of copper in the body), primary sclerosing cholangitis (an inflammatory disease of the bile ducts), primary biliary cirrhosis (an autoimmune disease of the small bile ducts), Budd-Chiai syndrome (obstruction o f the hepatic vein), Gilbert’s syndrome (a genetic disorder of bilirubin metabolism), and glycogen storage disease type II (build up of glycogen, causing progressive muscle weakness).

There are literally dozens of symptoms of Liver Disease, depending on the exact nature of the specific condition. The most common symptoms are jaundice, decreased appetite, poor digestion, pale stools, bloating and distention of the abdomen, excessive thirst, and frequent urination.

Symptoms are often related to digestive problems, blood sugar problems, immune disorders, abnormal absorption of fats, and metabolic problems. These may present themselves as a coated tongue, bad breath, itchy skin, excessive sweating, offensive body odor, dark circles under the eyes, red swollen and itchy eyes, acne rosacea, brownish spots and blemishes on the skin, flushed facial appearance or excessive facial blood vessels, dark urine, bone loss, easy bleeding, itching, small, spider-like blood vessels visible in the skin, enlarged spleen, fluid in the abdominal cavity, chills, pain from the biliary tract or pancreas, and an enlarged gallbladder.

A number of liver function tests are available to test the proper function of the liver, by determining the presence of enzymes in blood that are normally most abundant in liver tissue, metabolites or products.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Liver Disease Diagnosis

The Social Security Administration (SSA) classifies Liver Disease as a disorder of the digestive system, under Section 5.05 of the Social Security “Blue Book,” or Impairment Listing Manual. (Please note liver cancer is evaluated under Section 13.19 of the Blue Book.) The SSA bases its assessment of the severity of your condition on how your symptoms (including pain) limit you, the extent of your treatment, and how your treatment affects you.

Keep in mind that when you apply for disability benefits, the SSA will request medical documentation, including both clinical and laboratory findings, to document the severity and duration of your Liver Disease. This documentation should include any x-ray imaging, sonography, computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and radionuclide scans that have been ordered by your physician. In addition, the SSA will request all imaging studies and reports of endoscopy, operations, and pathology, as appropriate to your specific Liver Disease.

In order to meet the criteria for disability benefits, your Liver Disease must be chronic. In addition to any evaluation completed by the Social Security Administration, you must present the results of an independent liver biopsy confirming one of the following symptoms:

  1. Hepatic cell necrosis or inflammation persisting for at least three months demonstrated by repeated abnormalities of prothrombin time with enzymes that are consistent with liver dysfunction.
  2. Ascities that cannot be attributed to any other causes either recurring or persisting at least three months, that is verified by abdominal paracentesis or associated with continual hypoalbuminemia of 3.0 gm per deciliter or less.
  3. Serum bilirubin of 2.5mg per deciliter or greater observed through three months of examinations and testing.

The SSA’s approval of a disability claim for an individual with Liver Disease hangs on its finding that the Liver Disease has caused you to have such limited ability to function that you are unable to perform all types of substantial work activity.

Your Liver Disease Disability Case

If Liver Disease prevents you from working, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. Although total disability based on Liver Disease may be difficult to prove due to the unspecific nature of the condition, 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 will help to ensure that your Liver Disease disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.