Disability Benefits for Hepatitis C

If you don't yet have liver damage, you'll have to show that the symptoms of hepatitis C or medication side effects reduce your capacity to work.

Hepatitis C is an infectious virus that is spread by contact with blood. It is estimated that four million individuals carry hepatitis C in the United States alone. Hepatitis C is a disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), an infectious virus that can lead to severe liver damage. Over time, this infection causes the liver to swell and scar (cirrhosis), and may lead to the development of liver cancer and, ultimately, liver failure. Hepatitis C is one of the major causes of liver transplants.

For some, hepatitis C is a chronic illness, but many patients are now able to achieve a sustained virological response (SVR), which means their HCV viral load has become undetectable. The drugs that are effective in suppressing the virus in the majority of patients are ribavirin, telaprevir, boceprevir, and pegylated interferon alpha. Treatment is most successful when the disease is diagnosed early and in those that are younger and stronger. People who abuse or have abused alcohol, use drugs, smoke, or are diabetic are usually hit hardest by this disease.

In addition, the treatment for hepatitis C is hard on the body, and it can cause debilitating side effects, such as overwhelming fatigue, anemia, insomnia, fever, nausea or vomiting, depression, and difficulty with memory or concentration. 

Disability Benefits for Hepatitis C

If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C and chronic liver disease, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits under the official listing for liver disease. If not, you may be able to show that the symptoms of hepatitis C reduce your capacity to work. 

Chronic Liver Disease Listing

Social Security describes the requirements for disability based on chronic liver disease in its listing of impairments. In addition to being diagnosed with chronic liver disease, you must have had a complication such as internal bleeding, fluid in the peritoneal or pleural cavity, or hepatorenal or hepatopulmonary syndrome. As you can see, a diagnosis of hepatitis C infection alone won't qualify you for disability benefits. To meet the listing for chronic liver disease, you'll have to show that your liver has been damaged. For more information, see our article on getting disability for liver disease.

Reduced Capacity

If you don't meet the requirements of the liver disease listing, but you can demonstrate that your symptoms or the side effects of the medication reduce your capacity to work, you may still qualify for benefits. Social Security will evaluate your symptoms and the restrictions you doctor has placed on your to come up with your "residual functional capacity" (RFC).

For example, if your doctor says you can sit or stand only for four hours per day due to fatigue and anemia, you might get an RFC that limits you to sedentary work. Or, if your medication makes it difficult to focus or follow instructions, you may get a mental RFC that limits you to unskilled work. Depending on your prior job skills, your education level, and your age, Social Security will decide if there are any jobs you can do or if you qualify for disability due to your reduced functional capacity. Learn more about reduced functional capacity.