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Wilson's Disease and Social Security Disability

Wilson’s Disease - Condition and Symptoms

Copper is an important nutrient for our bodies. It helps to build bones, nerves, and helps to form melanin, which is a pigment in our skin. Most of us get more copper than we need through the food we eat, and our bodies are able to get rid of the rest. Wilson’s disease is an inherited condition which inhibits the ability to remove excess copper from the body, resulting in a dangerous accumulation of the mineral in several major organs, but mostly in the liver and the brain. Wilson’s disease is also known as hepatolenticular degeneration.

The case of Wilson’s disease is a genetic mutation. It is estimated that approximately 1% of the population has this mutation. They are called carriers and do not develop Wilson’s disease. When both parents carry the mutation, the child may develop the disease. Onset of symptoms usually begins between the ages of 6 and 20 years, though not always.

Some common symptoms of Wilson’s disease include:

  • Fatigue
  • Clumsiness
  • Bruising
  • Joint pain
  • Shaking
  • Jaundice (Yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Swelling of the limbs
  • Depression
  • Drooling

Wilson’s disease can also result in neurological and/or psychiatric problems as copper accumulates in the brain. Often, problems these present themselves in the form of slight cognitive deterioration. Later, Parkinson’s disease symptoms may appear, along with changes in behavior and/or memory loss.

If not properly treated, Wilson’s disease can be fatal. When it is diagnosed early enough, treatment is possible and the patient can lead a normal life. There are medications available which can help to reduce the excess copper levels in the body, although the side effects can prove to be troublesome. In cases where excessive liver damage has occurred, a liver transplant may be a viable option.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Wilson’s Disease Diagnosis

Wilson’s disease is listed in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) impairment listing manual (more commonly called the “Blue Book”) as one of the conditions which may qualify a person to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

The SSA has set forth diagnostic criteria that are used to determine a person’s eligibility for disability benefits. In order to qualify with a Wilson’s disease diagnosis, these criteria are:

  1. Hemorrhaging from varices (blood vessels that may rupture and bleed) 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. Accumulation of fluid in the abdominal or pleural cavities 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 lining of the abdominal cavity) of a pre-determined severity, or
    3. Hepatorenal syndrome (failure of the kidneys due to liver disease), or
    4. Hepatic encephalopathy (disruption of brain function due to an accumulation of toxins resulting from liver failure) of a pre-determined severity, or
    5. End-stage liver disease of a pre-determined severity.

Your Wilson’s Disease Disability Case

If you are unable to work as a result of the health problems associated with Wilson’s disease, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits. An attorney will be able to determine whether you qualify for SSI or SSDI.

While your disability may be very obvious to you and those around you, documenting it on paper so it will stand up under close scrutiny in a Social Security hearing is another matter entirely. For this reason, you would be wise to have your case evaluated by a Social Security Disability attorney.

It has been estimated that about 70% of all applications for disability benefits are denied on the first attempt. For these applicants, the next step is to file an appeal. Afterward, it may be necessary to re-submit some of the paperwork, after which another hearing may be scheduled. All of this happens at the speed we have all come to expect when working our way through bureaucratic red tape. It’s not surprising that cases usually drag on for months, and often for years. Worse yet, many of these applicants are legitimately disabled but had their cases denied due to incomplete or inaccurate documentation.

Fortunately, it is possible to retain the services of an experienced Social Security Disability attorney who would be very familiar with the disability application process. He or she would know how to cut through all the red tape and, better yet, potentially bypass the appeals process completely.

If Wilson’s disease has impacted your life to the degree that you need to file for disability benefits, your disability claim is too important to simply hope for the best. With a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer in your corner, you can rest assured that your disability case is being handled by a professional who knows how to get the job done right the first time.