Social Security Disability Insurance
Written by: Bruce L. Weider | 1.24.2024

Social Security Disability Benefits: Can You Get Disability For Autoimmune Disease?

According to the National Stem Cell Foundation, autoimmune disorders affect 4% of the world’s population and 5-8% of the United States’ population. Autoimmune diseases are the third most common cause of chronic illness in the United States. Unlike many other disabling illnesses, such as limb paralysis or cerebral palsy, these health conditions do not always have visible symptoms. Patients may spend years attempting to get a diagnosis. Depending on the systems affected and the severity of symptoms, working can be difficult –– even impossible, in some cases. Many patients suffering from an autoimmune disorder wonder, can you get disability for autoimmune disease? While the short answer is yes, receiving benefits is not as simple as applying and being approved. If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and would like to apply for Social Security disability, or have already applied for benefits and been denied, the experienced Michigan Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) attorneys with Bruce L. Weider, PC may be able to assist you. Call (734) 485-0535 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options.

What Is an Autoimmune Disease?

In a healthy person, the immune system attacks unhealthy cells associated with minor illnesses such as colds, as well as the mutated cells associated with cancers, while leaving healthy, “normal” cells alone. An autoimmune disease is a disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks healthy cells instead of, or alongside, harmful cells from infections or cancers. This “targeting” dysfunction causes pain, inflammation, and other problems that can make it difficult for the person to function at work or in everyday life.

An autoimmune disease is different from an immune deficiency disease. An immune deficiency disease is a disease in which the immune system is weakened, making the person more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Those illnesses and infections also tend to affect people with an immune deficiency disease more severely. However, many people with severe autoimmune disease are placed on specialized medications, collectively referred to as immunosuppressive therapies, to protect their healthy cells from “friendly fire” attacks. In these cases, patients with autoimmune disease may simultaneously suffer from a reduced ability to fight off ordinary infections; even though the immunodeficiency is medically induced, it can still leave them vulnerable to some other diseases, particularly those caused by viruses or bacteria.

Can You Work With an Autoimmune Disease?

Legally, yes, individuals with an autoimmune disease in many cases can and do continue to work. They may be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers who have 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities.

Accommodations made for employees with autoimmune disorders vary depending on the individual’s condition and the organs affected, but common examples include workstation modifications, changes in duties, retraining the individual for new skills, adapting the individual’s work schedule, or making other changes as agreed upon by the employer and employee. Because one of the requirements to be approved for SSDI is being unable to work, individuals may want to explore their accommodation options to ensure that they have exhausted all possibilities before applying, depending on the severity of their condition.

Is It Hard To Get Disability for an Autoimmune Disease?

Many people believe that it is hard to get disability benefits in general and even harder to get them for an autoimmune disease. Can you get disability for an autoimmune disease? Yes, if the individual meets the requirements. However, in some cases, the initial reviewer of the claim may not understand the condition or its symptoms. They also may not understand the situation if there are multiple impairments, which are common in patients with autoimmune disorders, as immune system dysregulation often affects more than one part of the body. Such misunderstandings can lead to a denial in the early stages.

Some of the most common impairments that cause disability are degenerative, either because of the natural progression of the disease or because aging bodies grow increasingly vulnerable to its impacts with the passage of time. Autoimmune disorders, however, can strike a person at any age, including during childhood. Unfortunately, the reviewer may not understand the difference between degenerative diseases and autoimmune diseases, and they may mistakenly deny a younger person’s claim because they confuse the two types of diseases. If you believe your claim has been denied as a result of confusion about your disease, Bruce L. Weider, PC may be able to assist you in filing an appeal.

What Autoimmune Diseases Qualify for Social Security Disability?

The Social Security Administration has identified more than 80 autoimmune diseases that may qualify an individual to receive SSDI benefits. Some of the autoimmune diseases that often qualify include multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory arthritis, connective tissue disease, scleroderma, and vasculitis. Individuals must provide medical records that prove their disability and its severity. Examples of records filed in support of a Social Security disability claim often include diagnostic testing such as blood work or antibody analysis, MRI or other imaging test results, and treatment plans. Individuals must also meet work and medical eligibility requirements.

Meeting Work and Medical Eligibility Requirements

To receive SSDI benefits, Individuals must meet both work and medical eligibility requirements. SSDI is partially dependent on the applicant’s work history, so in order to meet work requirements, individuals must have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify. To meet medical eligibility requirements, they must be able to show they have:

  • A total disability
  • A condition severe enough to impair basic work activities like walking, remembering, or sitting
  • An inability to do the same kind of work they did before developing the disorder
  • An inability to do any other type of work because of the disease

What if You Do Not Meet the Work Requirements?

If the person applying for benefits is a child, or has not worked enough to meet the work requirements, they may be eligible to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead. While SSDI requires an individual to have paid a certain amount of Social Security tax during a certain period of time, SSI does not. SSI is meant for those who have limited resources and income, whether they qualify for SSDI or not. SSI also qualifies recipients for Medicaid, which may assist with medical bills. The Autoimmune Association recommends applying for SSI if the individual with the autoimmune disease is a child, but points out that if one or both parents makes enough money, the child may not qualify until they are 18 and their parents’ income no longer counts.

Can You Get Disability for Low Immune System?

A low immune system, also referred to as an immune deficiency or immunodeficiency disorder, may qualify an individual to receive SSDI benefits. There are two types of immunodeficiency disorders: primary, which exists from birth and is often inherited, and acquired, which means the deficiency developed another way.

Unlike an autoimmune disease, an immune deficiency disease must meet one of the following three criteria in order to qualify:

  • Getting a severe infection such as sepsis, meningitis, septic arthritis, endocarditis, pneumonia, or sinusitis at least three times per year that does not respond to treatment or requires hospitalization.
  • Undergoing a stem cell transplant.
  • Sufficient evidence of the immune deficiency disorder, plus two severe illness symptoms, and evidence that the condition keeps the individual from working, socializing, or keeping up a daily routine.

Are You Struggling With Getting Your SSDI Claim Approved?

Can you get disability for autoimmune disease? Yes, if you have a qualifying disease and the appropriate evidence. Whether you are attempting to submit an initial application for benefits or have had your claim denied, getting SSDI benefits can be a complicated and confusing process. If you would like assistance with your Michigan SSDI claim, Bruce L. Weider, PC may be able to assist you. Call (734) 485-0535 to schedule a free consultation to go over your case.

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