Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis and Social Security Disability

The Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits application process can be quite lengthy, with most people waiting at least three months for their initial application to be reviewed. According to national averages, about 70 percent of applications are initially denied by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Denials occur for a variety of reasons, though insufficient medical documentation supporting the disability claim is the most common cause.

If denied SSDI benefits, the applicant must proceed through a second review. If denied benefits again, the decision can be appealed, and each step in the process increases the wait for benefits by several months. The entire process, from first review to final appeal, can take a year or more, with some applicants waiting more than two years for a final determination on eligibility.

For anyone suffering from a severe disability or terminal illness, waiting months or years for a decision on eligibility for benefits is impossible. For this reason, the SSA implemented the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program in 2008, which allows for the expedited processing of disability applications which contain certain diagnoses, now including Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis.

Currently, there are 113 conditions which fall under the CAL program. Come August 13, 2012, there will be 52 more added to the list. Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis is among those which will become active in August of this year.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis, the information which follows will help you understand the SSA’s disability claims review process. It will also provide you some insight into how to more quickly see disability benefits approved under the CAL guidelines.

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis – Condition and Symptoms

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis, of NSF, is an extremely rare syndrome that affects the skin, eye, internal organs and joints. It was only very recently discovered, in 1997, and its exact cause is not clear, though it is believed to be at least associated with patient exposure to specific chemicals used in MRIs performed with contrast agents which contain gadolinium. Most people exposed to gadolinium do not develop NSF and therefore the substance must only play a part in the syndrome.

As gadolinium MRI contrast agents are most commonly used in patients with kidney diseases, most of those who develop NSF have undergone dialysis, including peritoneal dialysis, hemodialysis or both. Some NSF sufferers have also taken immunosuppressive medications and have illnesses other than kidney disease, such as Hepatitis C.

Individuals with NSF develop large fibrous nodules and plaques on the skin and may also have joint issues which result in pain and cause limitations in range of motion. Additionally, in its most severe form, NSF can affect the internal organs, causing the development of fibrosis in the liver, heart and lungs.

The presence of visible skin symptoms along with other signs may lead physicians to suspect NSF. Because NSF is a relatively new and rare syndrome however, diagnosis is often delayed. Definitive diagnosis of the condition requires skin biopsy and may require biopsy of tissue from other areas of the body affected by the condition as well. X-rays and other imaging exams may be performed to view joint involvement and to determine the extent of organ involvement.

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis is typically a chronic and progressive condition. In very rare cases, the syndrome has partially or completely ceased without any specific treatment, though return of normal kidney function also occurred in these cases. No single treatment has been shown to stop the progression of the disease, nor is there any known cure. Steroids and other medications may be used to manage symptoms and lessen discomfort, pain and inflammation.

Filing for Social Security Disability with Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis

If you’re filing an application for disability with a diagnosis of Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis, you should understand that the diagnosis alone is not enough to prove disability. You must have extensive medical records in any claim for SSD benefits. This is true even if your disability falls under the CAL program. In other words, even with a diagnosis of ISSD, automatic approval of benefits is not guaranteed. You will still need to provide adequate documentation related to the diagnosis and treatment of the condition, including all your medical records, lab and other test results, and statements from treating physicians.

Your Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis Social Security Disability Case

While Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis is now considered a standard condition in the Compassionate Allowances list by the SSA, and therefore qualifies for expedited processing, the diagnosis alone is not enough to prove SSD eligibility. You must include substantial proof of disability in your application to be found eligible for benefits. A Social Security Disability lawyer can help you through the application and review processes, assist in getting the right documentation into your case file, and can shorten your wait for benefits as well.

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