According to the American Liver Foundation, more than 30 million Americans have some form of liver disease. Chronic liver disease is actually a category of diseases rather than a disease itself. Chronic liver diseases include: cirrhosis, hepatitis C and B, sarcoidosis, autoimmune hepatitis, liver failure, alcoholic liver disease, liver cancer, hepatoma, and other liver diseases. Chronic liver disease can result from alcohol and drug abuse, environmental toxins, viruses like hepatitis C, autoimmune disorders, and hereditary factors. Symptoms of chronic liver disease include jaundice, abdominal swelling, fatigue, diarrhea, and mental disorientation.
If you are earning less than $1,350 per month (in 2022), and the disability caused by your liver damage has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 consecutive months, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider whether your medical condition is significant enough to be considered a disability. The SSA will first look to see if your liver damage meets one of its disability listings in its (“blue book”) Listing of Impairments. Adult Listing 5.05 covers all chronic liver diseases. To meet the requirements of the chronic liver disease listing, your doctor must have diagnosed you with either end-stage liver disease or chronic liver disease with at least one of the following complications:
- excess fluid in the peritoneal cavity (called ascites) or the pleural cavity (called hydrothorax)
- spontaneous bacterial peritonitis
- esophageal or gastrointestinal hemorrhage
- hepatorenal syndrome
- hepatopulmonary syndrome
- hepatic encephalopathy, or
- end-stage liver disease with SSA CLD scores of 22 or greater.
The details of the listing are actually quite complicated. If you’re unsure if you’ve had one of the above complications, ask your doctor to look at the listing with you (see link below).
Social Security has a separate listing for those who have undergone a liver transplant for any reason. To qualify under Listing 5.09 for liver transplant, you simply must have had a liver transplant, and Social Security will consider you to be disabled for at least one year after the operation.
Even if you do not meet the requirements of Listing 5.05 or 5.09, you may still be eligible for benefits. The SSA will assess your “residual functional capacity” (RFC) to determine whether there is any type of work you can still do given your functional limitations. For example, if you suffer from fatigue and need periods of rest, your RFC should state this. Or if your pain prevents you from walking, lifting, or carrying for more than a certain amount of time, your RFC should include this. Depending on your physical limitations, your RFC will have a sedentary, light, or medium work rating. Your RFC should also state any mental limitations caused by your disease, such as an inability to focus or remember things. If your RFC prevents you from returning to your past work and any other work available, considering your age, education, and work history, then you will be found disabled.
By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®