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Budd-Chiari Syndrome and Social Security Benefits

As a condition that interrupts or blocks the flow of blood between the liver and the heart, Budd-Chiari Syndrome can severely compromise liver function and may even lead to chronic liver disease or liver failure. Symptoms can involve other organs as well and when symptoms are severe, they can prevent a person from maintaining a job.

If Budd-Chiari Syndrome is so advanced that it makes it impossible to work, it can qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Medically Qualifying with Budd-Chiari Syndrome

The SSA maintains a manual of disabling conditions. This manual is the Blue Book, and the simplest way to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is to meet a listing for a disability in this book. Unfortunately, Budd-Chiari Syndrome is not a listed impairment, but it can still medically qualify for benefits in other ways.

Some cases of Budd-Chiari Syndrome are controlled with medications or can be resolved surgically. Even if the blockage or vein issues are addressed though, the syndrome can cause serious complications. These include chronic liver disease, esophageal bleeding, and kidney impairment, among others.

Chronic Liver Disease is the most common listing under which applicants are able to qualify for benefits. This listing appears in the Blue Book under Section 5.05.

To meet this listing, your medical records must show one of the following in association with your liver disease:

  • Esophageal bleeding that required hospitalization and blood transfusions

    OR

  • Kidney involvement, including at least one of the following:
    • Elevated serum creatinine levels of 2 mg/dL or higher
    • Urine output of 500 mL or less in a 24-hour oliguria measurement
    • Urine sodium levels of 10 mEq per liter or lower

    OR

  • End stage liver disease

If you have a liver transplant, you automatically meet the SSA’s medical eligibility requirements for at least a year following transplantation surgery.

Even if you cannot qualify medically under the listing for liver disease, you may still be able to receive benefits. You must be able to show through your medical records that you are unable to work in any job. The SSA will take into account all of your limitations in making this determination, including the symptoms of Budd-Chiari as well as all other medical conditions you have.

If you do not meet or match a Blue Book listings, then the SSA performs a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) analysis. The SSA requires you to provide additional information for this, including how your symptoms and overall medical condition affect your everyday abilities and activities.

You must complete a “functional report.” Your doctor must do the same. The SSA uses this information and the details contained in your medical records to determine your RFC. If your RFC analysis shows you cannot work in any job that you are otherwise qualified for, then you will receive SSD.

Getting Help with Your Claim

Budd-Chiari Syndrome is not a listed Blue Book condition, and not everyone who has this syndrome experiences the same symptoms. This means some people who apply for SSD are initially denied benefits. By working with a Social Security Disability advocate or attorney, you may be able to increase your chances of approval. If you are denied, then you will need to file an appeal, and an advocate or attorney’s assistance can be invaluable in this situation.