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Digestive System Disorders and Social Security Disability

When you apply for Social Security disability benefits, you need to prove that you are completely disabled and no longer able to perform meaningful work. While much of the information you provide to the Social Security Administration (SSA) will be open to interpretation, the SSA goes to great lengths to provide its representatives with guidelines for what exactly constitutes complete disability.

The main resource SSA representatives use for this is the Blue Book. The Blue Book lists fourteen body and mental systems and functions, giving guidelines on how SSA representatives are to decide claims based on disabilities relating to those systems. The fifth section of the Blue Book deals with disabling conditions of the digestive system.

It is important to receive medical treatment while you are claiming Social Security disability. While this is important regardless of your disabling condition, it is particularly important for those who are claiming benefits based on digestive disorders. It will be important to show that you are disabled despite complying with all prescribed treatments and that your condition has lasted or is expected to last at least one full year.

There are six broad categories of digestive conditions which the Blue Book addresses. These are:

  • Chronic Liver Disease. The SSA will need to see medical imaging, such as X Rays or endoscopy. To qualify, your CLD must have caused hospitalization and a need for a blood transfusion (minimum two units). Alternately, you may be eligible if your CLD has required shunts, is terminal (end stage), or can be shown to have affected your mental health significantly.
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhaging. To qualify for disability, you must require at least three blood transfusions of two units or more during a period of six months. Additionally, to count as separate transfusions, the transfusions must be at least 30 days from one another.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). To qualify with IBD, you must have documentation of an endoscopy, medical imaging, or biopsy. Your condition must have required hospitalization twice within six months (to be considered separate hospitalizations, they must be sixty days apart).Other conditions which may qualify you if two or more are present and sufficiently acute include: anemia, serum albumin, tender abdominal mass, draining abscess, weight loss of 10 pounds or more, need for a catheter or supplemental nutrition.
  • Liver Transplants. If you have received a liver transplant, you will be considered completely disabled for at least one full year after your transplant. Your disability will be periodically reviewed after the year is past.
  • Short Bowel Syndrome. To qualify, more than half of your small intestine must be removed.
  • Weight Loss from Digestive Disorders. To qualify, you must be under treatment and follow all prescribed treatments. Additionally, your Body Mass Index must be less than 17.50.

If your digestive disorder does not fall into one of these categories, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t qualified for disability benefits. It simply means that your disability can’t be evaluated directly using the Blue Book and SSA representatives will need to evaluate how your condition impacts your ability to perform typical work related tasks.

Other specific disabling conditions that are evaluated under digestive system disorders: