How Disabling is Liver Disease?

Approximately 4 million people in the United States live with some form of chronic liver disease. As there are over 100 different types of liver diseases, the symptoms and severity of the illness will vary from person to person. Diseases of the liver are also referred to as hepatic diseases.

If you have a chronic liver disease that is severe enough to prevent you from earning a gainful living, there could be financial help available to you. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program was created to assist those who have become disabled due to an illness such as liver disease.

What Exactly Is Liver Disease?

Weighing approximately 3 pounds, your liver is the second largest organ in your body. It sits on the right side of your abdomen below your diaphragm and rib cage. Your liver is one of the most hard-working organs of your body, performing over 500 separate functions. Some of the more important duties of the liver include cleaning your blood, producing bile to help you digest food, and storing glucose for energy when you need it. The liver is the only organ that can regenerate.

Liver disease can be inherited or brought on by a virus. Additionally, too much fatty food, alcohol, or medication use can also cause liver disease. In rarer cases, liver disease can result from autoimmune diseases or cancer. Some of the more well-known liver diseases include hepatitis, fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis. If liver disease goes untreated, it can progress to scarring and liver failure.

Liver Disease Disabling Condition Social Security Benefits

Treatment of liver disease depends on the diagnosis. For some, lifestyle modifications such as dietary changes or discontinuing alcohol use may be enough. For others, medications or surgery may be required. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be the only option.

What Symptoms Will Qualify for Benefits?

There is a range of symptoms that can be expected when you have liver disease, and they all might affect your ability to work differently. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses their “Blue Book” manual to determine eligibility. Below are some signs that your liver disease might qualify you for disability benefits:

  • Chronic liver disease with bleeding from the esophagus, stomach, or other related areas, or changes in the lining of the stomach that result in hospitalization for a blood transfusion.
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen or the lungs that are present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart.
  • Infection found in the fluid of the abdomen.
  • Disruption or failure of other body systems, such as the kidneys, lungs, or brain due to liver disease.
  • If you are considered to have end-stage liver disease (ESLD) or require a transplant, it is very likely that you will qualify for financial assistance.
  • Liver disease can cause abdominal pain and swelling that may make it difficult to work.
  • Swelling in the legs, feet, and ankles is a possible side-effect of liver disease. If you have a job that requires a lot of time standing or walking, and you experience severe swelling that impedes your ability to do so, you may be eligible for financial assistance.
  • Many people with liver disease experience nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss. While weight loss alone will not qualify you for benefits, if your disease process causes your BMI to fall below 17.50 on at least two occasions, you may qualify for help from the SSA.
  • Medications given for liver disease may cause side effects. For example, some antiviral medications used to treat hepatitis can cause weakness, confusion, and exhaustion. If these symptoms drastically interfere with your ability to work, you may qualify for help.

Do I Qualify for Social Security Benefits?

To be eligible for Social Security benefits, your medical records will need to show that you are experiencing some of the symptoms listed above and that your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working at a level which would support you. Additionally, your illness needs to be disabling for at least 12 months.

What Information Will I Need to Provide?

When applying for Social Security, you should be prepared to provide the following documentation:

  • Confirmation of your exact diagnosis of liver disease from your Physician.
  • Blood tests, including a full liver function panel, an INR and blood platelets, as well as other related blood work.
  • X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds or other images that may confirm the size of your liver, any scarring or fatty deposits, or the presence of any accumulating fluid.
  • Liver biopsy results, if performed.
  • Surgical results, if appropriate.
  • Notes from your doctor, physical therapist, or other health care provider that describe your symptoms and illness, as well as your response to treatments.

You should begin gathering the above medical reports as soon as possible. The more medical evidence that you have on your side, the better your chances of being approved for SSDI benefits for liver disease.

What’s Next for My Claim?

If you have liver disease and you believe that you may qualify for Social Security benefits, you should contact a disability advocate or lawyer in your area. When your health is suffering, it can be difficult to know where to turn or what to do next. A qualified attorney can help you navigate the Social Security application process, leaving you time to focus on what’s most important: your health.

Additional Resources 

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!