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Social Security Disability Benefits for Liver Disease

Posted January 28, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

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.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Adult Listings: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/5.00-Digestive-Adult.htm#5_05 

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Positive Improvements Ahead for Social Security Disability Claimants, Including a Return to In-Person Hearings

Posted January 24, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

There have been a number of recent developments that indicate Social Security disability claimants will have better access to offices and hearings in the near future. As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, these developments are positive steps towards addressing the significant barriers to services people with disabilities encounter.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a press release on January 19 celebrating that they have reached a reentry agreement with three labor unions. The release is vague but assures the public that this “will be a significant step toward improving access to our services as we implement this plan.”

Further, the SSA and the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ, the ALJs’ union) have developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the return of in-person hearings. ALJs covered by the union can volunteer to hold in-person hearings beginning on May 4; all ALJs, except those with medical exemptions, will be required to do so beginning on June 3. At times when they are not scheduled for in-person hearings, ALJs will be able to choose whether they work in their offices or telework.

Everyone who enters the hearing office must complete a screening questionnaire and wear a mask, and masks will be made available to claimants. The MOU says only ALJs, claimants, parents of child claimants, and representatives will be allowed in the hearing room. 

This memorandum does not affect SSA’s existing plans to have non-union ALJs, such as National Hearing Center ALJs, Hearing Office Chief ALJs, and Regional Chief ALJs, hold up to three in-person hearings per day beginning in March for a very limited subset of cases (primarily aged critical cases where the claimant has chosen not to accept a phone or video hearing).

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Posted January 14, 2022 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

More than 3 million people in the United States currently suffer with glaucoma. Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.

If you have glaucoma, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits under Adult Listings 2.02, 2.03, or 2.04 for your visual disorder. Social Security defines visual disorders as abnormalities of the eye, the optic nerve, the optic tracts, or the brain that may cause a loss of visual acuity or visual fields. A loss of visual acuity limits your ability to distinguish detail, read, or do fine work. A loss of visual fields limits your ability to perceive visual stimuli in the peripheral extent of vision.

To evaluate your visual disorder, Social Security will usually need a report of an eye examination that includes measurements of your best-corrected central visual acuity or the extent of your visual fields, as appropriate. If you have visual acuity or visual field loss, Social Security needs documentation of the cause of the loss. A standard eye examination will usually indicate the cause of any visual acuity loss. A standard eye examination can also indicate the cause of some types of visual field deficits.

To learn more about glaucoma awareness visit https://www.glaucoma.org/news/glaucoma-awareness-month.php or https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/outreach-campaigns-and-resources/glaucoma-resources/glaucoma-awareness-month 

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Thomas Klint of Premier Disability Services, LLC®