Sjogren’s syndrome is a systemic autoimmune disease. It causes your immune cells to destroy your tear and saliva glands. The primary symptom associated with Sjogren’s syndrome is dryness. The condition is often first noticed because of dry mouth or dry eyes. Sjogren’s syndrome can affect multiple regions and body functions, including:
- Blood vessels
- Peripheral nervous system
Sjogren’s syndrome is typically diagnosed with a combination of blood testing and biopsy tests designed to determine the moisture levels in the eyes or salivary glands.
How to Apply for Social Security Disability with Sjogren's Syndrome
Sjogren’s syndrome was recently added to the Social Security Administration’s listing of impairments (Blue Book). The Blue Book is the list of conditions that qualify for disability. This means that there are definite standards which SSA representatives can use to determine whether you qualify for disability benefits with Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s syndrome is listed in Section 14.10, under immune system disorders.
The criteria for qualifying for disability benefits based on Sjogren’s syndrome are:
- Two or more body systems or organs affected
- At least one system/function/organ affected to a moderate or severe level
- At least two of the following symptoms: weight loss (when not trying to lose weight), severe fatigue, malaise, chronic fever
What if My Sjogren's Doesn't Meet the SSA's Listing?
If you have Sjogren’s syndrome but don’t meet the qualifications above, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your condition:
- Causes significant limitations to your daily activities
- Limits your ability to function in social situations
- Significantly compromises your ability to complete job tasks by affecting your pace, concentration, or persistence
Qualifying Based on Other Conditions
If you have another condition that causes your Sjogren's syndrome, you may be eligible to qualify based on the listings for the disabling effects of those conditions. These conditions include:
Sjogren’s syndrome is often accompanied by other potentially disabling conditions. You may qualify for disability benefits based on the total of all of your disabling conditions, even if you don’t qualify based on Sjogren’s (or any other condition) in and of itself. The SSA will consider the total effect of all of your disabling conditions. Because of this, you will want to include any and all medical or mental conditions you struggle with on your disability claim, even if they are not related to Sjogren’s syndrome.
What If I don't Qualfy Based on the SSA's Guidelines?
Sjogren’s syndrome typically affects multiple systems. If you don’t qualify for disability benefits based on the severity and extent of your Sjogren’s syndrome itself, you may still qualify for disability benefits based on the effects to one or more of your body systems or functions.
This type of SSA decision is called a Medical-Vocational Allowance. Your Doctor can help with this type of decision by providing evidence in a specific form called a Residual Functioning Capacity form.
Many Sjogren’s syndrome disability claims which are initially denied benefits are eventually approved during the appeals process. You are entitled to represent yourself throughout the process, but most claimants find it beneficial to consult a Social Security disability lawyer, especially if they are facing the appeals process.
Your Sjogren's Syndrome Social Security Disability Case
Social Security disability lawyers deal with the SSA on a regular basis. They are up to date on changes to the disability requirements and know how to put a claim together using the kind of wording the SSA is most likely to approve. Studies show that claimants who are represented by disability lawyers are twice as likely to have their claims approved than claimants who represent themselves.
Most Social Security attorneys offer a free initial consultation. Further, Social Security lawyers are not allowed by law to charge you for their services unless your benefits are approved. When your disability benefits are approved, your lawyer collects his fees as a percentage of the back pay to which you are entitled, leaving your ongoing benefits untouched.