Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition in which patches of skin become white and scaly. Inflammation and lesions are also common, and the affected skin is frequently itchy. Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the skin, but often occurs on the elbows and knees.
While psoriasis is a mere annoyance to may people, for some, it can cause joint pain, arthritis, and frequent skin infections that may make it difficult to work. One way to qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you can't work is to meet the requirement's of one of Social Security's disability listings.
Does Social Security Have a Disability Listing for Psoriasis?
While Social Security doesn't have a separate listing for psoriasis, the agency does state that psoriasis falls under its disability listing called “Dermatitis.” If you have psoriasis that causes you to be unable to work, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will grant you disability benefits if you meet the eligibility requirements the SSA sets forth in the dermatitis listing.
In order to be eligible for disability under the dermatitis listing, you must have a diagnosis of psoriasis (or another kind of dermatitis) with extensive skin lesions that last for at least three months and are not responding to any prescribed treatment.
Psoriasis is quite common, but it is seldom serious enough to qualify for disability under this listing.
What Counts as “Extensive Skin Lesions”?
The SSA has given some guidelines on how extensive skin lesions need to be in order to meet the criteria in the dermatitis listing. The lesions have to involve more than one area of the body or else involve one body area that is critical to functioning, and the lesions have to result in a very serious limitation. Some examples of locations of skin lesions that would be approved for benefits are:
- lesions that make it difficult to move your joints and that limit the use of more than one extremity (for example, two legs, two arms, or one leg and one arm)
- lesions on both palms that limit your ability to use your hands,
- lesions on the soles of both feet that limit your ability to walk, and
- lesions on the perineum and/or both sides of the groin .
Related Disability Listings
Some people with psoriasis also suffer from a form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis. If your psoriasis does not meet the requirements for the dermatitis listing, but you also suffer from psoriatic arthritis, you may qualify for disability based on the effects of your arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis does not have its own specific listing, but discussed below are a few different listings under which you might qualify if you suffer from psoriatic arthritis.
Major Dysfunction of a Joint
Psoriasis can cause major joint dysfunction. To qualify for disability under this disability listing, you need to have severe functional loss caused by any type of joint dysfunction. The cause of the joint dysfunction does not matter.
The criteria of this listing require you to have an obvious deformity in a joint, with a history of joint pain and stiffness and loss of motion (or other kinds of abnormal motion), as well as medical imaging showing certain kinds of joint deformity. You must also show that you can't walk effectively or use your hands effectively because of joint problems.
Reconstructive Surgery of a Weight-Bearing Joint
If your psoriatic arthritis is bad enough, you may receive reconstructive surgery on your hips, knees, or ankles. Most reconstructive surgeries do not lead to functional impairments severe enough to qualify for disability, but sometimes (usually if there is a mistake during the surgery) a person can qualify under this disability listing. For more information and the specific criteria for qualifying under this listing, see our articles on disability and reconstructive surgery.
Disorders of the Spine
Psoriatic arthritis can also affect your spine, and if it limits your ability to function in a work-related setting (for instance, to bend or stoop), you may qualify for disability under the listing for spinal problems. For more information on the specific criteria for the various spinal ailments, see our section on disability for back problems.
People with psoriatic arthritis can be found disabled under the inflammatory arthritis listing. One of the criteria to be eligible under this listing is that you have persistent deformity or inflammation in a peripheral joint that leads to a severe loss in functioning. (The small joints of the hand are often affected by psoriatic arthritis, and those count as peripheral joints.) For more information and the specific criteria for qualifying under this listing, see our article on disability and inflammatory arthritis.
Can I Get Disability if I Don’t Qualify Under a Listing?
If you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis that seriously impacts your functioning, but your condition doesn’t meet the criteria under any of the disability listings mentioned above, the SSA will assess your residual functional capacity (RFC) -- that is, how much you are able to do despite the limitations caused by your psoriasis.
The RFC assessment will include all functional limitations caused by your psoriasis (and any related conditions). For example, if you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis that affects your fingers or the palms of your hands, you may be limited in activities that require writing, typing, grasping, pushing, pulling, or lifting. If you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis that affects your feet, ankles, hips, or groin area, you may have limitations on activities that require walking for certain lengths of time, kneeling, or remaining in one position for certain lengths of time.
If the SSA determines that your RFC is so limiting that there is no job you can perform, you could be awarded benefits under what is called a “medical-vocational allowance,” depending on your age, education, and prior job skills. For more information, see our section on medical-vocational allowances.