Cirrhosis and Social Security Disability

Cirrhosis – Condition and Symptoms

The liver is a large organ in the upper abdominal area, just below the diaphragm. It carries out a number of different functions, including detoxifying the body, purifying the blood, and secreting bile, which is essential for the digestion of fats. When the liver becomes diseased, it can often regenerate itself. This process of regeneration, however, can sometimes result in scar tissue, nodules, and fibrous tissue. This condition is called Cirrhosis.

The most common causes of Cirrhosis are alcoholism, hepatitis B and C, and fatty liver disease. It can also result from other liver ailments such as Wilson’s disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis, or hemochromatosis. Sometimes it happens for unknown reasons, in which case it is referred to as being idiopathic.

Often, the symptoms of Cirrhosis do not appear until significant liver damage has occurred. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Easy bleeding and/or bruising
  • Build-up of fluid in the abdominal area (also known as ascites)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Swelling in the legs

If not properly treated, Cirrhosis can lead to malnutrition, hepatic encephalopathy (confusion or coma resulting from a build-up of toxins in the blood), and portal hypertension (increased pressure in the vein which delivers blood to the liver), which can also lead to varices (blood vessels which become enlarged and burst, leading to serious bleeding). As mentioned earlier, liver cancer is another potential consequence. It can also lead to gallstones, diabetes, and kidney failure.

Cirrhosis can initially be diagnosed through blood tests. Follow-up tests to confirm the diagnosis may include CT or MRI scans and/or a liver biopsy. Blood tests may or may not also be able to determine the cause of Cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis may be treated, depending on how far it has advanced when diagnosed. Initial treatment may include targeting the cause of the disease. For example, if Cirrhosis is a result of alcoholism, substance abuse treatment may be recommended since further ingestion of alcohol would continue to cause liver damage. In cases where the liver is damaged to the point where it is failing, transplant surgery is the last remaining option.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Cirrhosis Diagnosis

Cirrhosis has been identified by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in their impairment listing manual (also called the Blue Book) as a condition which can cause a person to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Under the classification of chronic liver disease, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. Hemorrhaging from varices of the esophagus or stomach or from portal hypertensive gastropathy (disease of the stomach from high blood pressure in the abdominal arteries) resulting in unstable blood pressure and requiring hospitalization for transfusion of at least 2 units of blood, or one of the following:
    1. Ascites which cannot be attributed to other causes in spite of continuing treatment, present on at least 2 occasions at least 60 days apart during a 6 month period, or
    2. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (infection of the abdominal wall) of a pre-determined severity, or
    3. failure of the kidneys due to liver disease, or
    4. Hepatic encephalopathy of a pre-determined severity, or
    5. Liver failure of a pre-determined severity.

Be aware that some of the complications from Cirrhosis may qualify as disabling conditions on their own. For example, if your case of Cirrhosis has resulted in diabetes mellitus, there is a possibility that your disability case could be based on that diagnosis, etc.

Your Cirrhosis Disability Case

If you are unable to provide for your needs or the needs of your family because of Cirrhosis, you stand a good chance of being qualified to get Social Security Disability benefits. Since the Social Security Administration strives very diligently to prevent fraud, it can be very difficult to access these benefits when you genuinely need them. For this reason, you are strongly encouraged to enlist the services of a Social Security Disability attorney.

Only about 30% of all applications for disability benefits are approved upon their initial submission. The remaining 70 percent or so, should they choose to pursue the case further, have little choice but to appeal this initial decision. The result is a long, frustrating process which moves with all of the speed we have come to expect when attempting to work our way through government bureaucracy.

A great many of these unfortunate applicants could have saved themselves the time and aggravation of a protracted appeal case simply by having their claims reviewed by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney. Working side-by-side with you and your healthcare providers, your disability lawyer can gather all of the appropriate documents and make sure that all of your paperwork is in order before it is submitted, thereby minimizing the chance that you’ll get stuck with an inordinately long delay to your benefits. Even a seemingly insignificant mistake or omission in your application could take month, and possibly years to iron out.

Your Social Security Disability attorney has been through the entire process on numerous occasions, and knows how to avoid the common mistakes so your benefits will be on the way at the nearest possible opportunity.

To find out more about applying for disability benefits with Cirrhosis, or to speak directly with an attorney or advocate practicing in your area, request a free disability evaluation today.