Getting Social Security Disability for Crohn's Disease

Whether you can get disability benefits for Crohn's disease depends on your complications.

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Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a chronic inflammatory condition of the intestines. Crohn's disease is also known as granulomatous enteritis or colitis, regional enteritis, or Crohn's ileitis. Crohn's disease primarily causes breaks in the lining of the small and large intestines (ulcerations), but it can affect the digestive system at any point from the mouth to the anus. In severe cases, bowel obstructions and perforations may occur.

Symptoms of Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease usually causes inflammation in the lower part of the small intestine, called the ileum. The inflammation extends deep into the intestinal lining and can cause pain and make the intestines empty frequently. Symptoms of Crohn's include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss. These symptoms tend to fluctuate between periods of inactivity (remission) and activity (relapse). It can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and to another type of IBD known as ulcerative colitis.

Treatment of Crohn's Disease

Acute flare-ups of Crohn's disease are treated aggressively to achieve a remission. Once remission is achieved, treatment usually includes antibiotics for infections and anti-inflammatory drugs to control inflammation. Severe Crohn's cases may require multiple surgeries to control or maintain remission of the disease.

Disability for Crohn's Disease

Social Security does consider Crohn's disease to be a significant impairment that may prevent an individual from performing substantial work; therefore, it is possible for an individual to be approved for disability benefits on the basis of Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease is evaluated under inflammatory bowel disease in the listing of impairments published by the Social Security Administration (SSA). 

To qualify under the IBD listing, you need to have a diagnosis of IBD, plus a listed complication, such as untreatable anemia, a bowel obstruction, an abscess or fistula, significant, unintentional weight loss (of more than 10% of your body weight), or a tender abdominal mass with pain and cramping. 

If you don't have one of the requisite complications, you can also qualify if you can show that your symptoms make it impossible to work your prior job, and that with your job skills and education, there are no other types of jobs you could learn to do that you would be capable of doing. For more information, see how the SSA judges your ability to work despite your symptoms.

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