Gastroparesis and Social Security Disability

Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach muscles are weakened or do not function well, impairing the digestion process. As a result, the muscles are unable to contract to push food through the stomach and the is then unable to properly digest food. The term gastroparesis refers to a “partial paralysis” of the digestive functions, usually because of damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the stomach muscles. Gastroparesis can be caused by conditions like diabetes and Parkinson's, certain medications or drug use, and irregular eating habits.

Chronic nausea and vomiting and abdominal pain are among the earliest signs of gastroparesis. Because the stomach is unable to move food through the body at an appropriate rate, someone with gastroparesis might feel full after only taking a few bites of food. In the long term, this can lead to bacterial infections because of undigested food that has fermented inside of the body, as well as seemingly irreversible weight loss. The food that remains in your body may also harden in your stomach, forming a mass called a bezoar, which can become dangerous as it blocks food from entering the small intestine. Gastroparesis patients with diabetes are at risk for increased irregular blood glucose levels and heart palpitations.

Gastroparesis is usually diagnosed using X-ray imaging or an endoscopy. While there is no cure for gastroparesis, there are treatments to help manage the condition and prevent it from worsening. A doctor may recommend dietary changes and prescribe medication that either manages the nausea or stimulates stomach muscle function. In more severe cases, bypass surgery may be required to assist the stomach's weak functioning.

Filing for Social Security Disability with Gastroparesis

The effects of gastroparesis can be severe and unpredictable on a day-to-day basis. The blue book does not mention gastroparesis, but you may qualify for benefits under a listing associated with a similar digestive dysfunction, such as Section 5.06 Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Section 5.08 Weight Loss due to any Digestive Disorder. There are also listing associated with the areas of the body affected by the symptoms or complications of gastroparesis: diabetes is found in Section 9.00 Endocrine Disorders, Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis are listed in Section 11.00 Neurological Disorders, and immune disorders like Scleroderma are listed in Section 14.00.

You can also qualify for benefits without meeting a blue book listing through a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. An RFC assessment is used to evaluate your mental and physical capacity to maintain a job on a regular basis.

Your Gastroparesis Disability Claim

You may find it difficult to qualify for disability benefits with gastroparesis because the symptoms can vary from mild to severe and are rather unpredictable. You must present enough medical evidence demonstrating that gastroparesis prevents you from working and earning a living. If you are unable to do this by matching a blue book listing, you may be able to qualify through a medical-vocational allowance, which takes into account your remaining functional ability and any previous education or employment in order to see what other work, if any, you can perform. If you are found unable to adjust to another type of work, you would then become eligible for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Because of the difficulties associated with a gastroparesis benefits claim, you may want a Social Security Disability lawyer to help you prepare for and submit your application. These attorneys are experts in the disability benefits process and can increase your likelihood of receiving benefits at the earliest possible time. By using an attorney, you are also cutting down on the risk of your application being for simple mistakes. Considering the SSA denies most of all the first time applications submitted, hiring attorney to assist you might make the difference between receiving a denial or an approval. 

Additional Resources 

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!