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, typically on the elbows and knees.
Many people with psoriasis find the condition to be a manageable nuisance. But for others, psoriasis can cause joint pain, arthritis, and frequent skin infections that can make it difficult to work. If you have psoriasis that keeps you from working full-time for at least twelve months, you might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Listed impairments are conditions that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers severe enough to qualify a disability applicant for benefits "automatically." If your medical record contains specific evidence that satisfies the requirements of the listing, you'll qualify for benefits without needing to show that you can't do any job.
Social Security evaluates psoriasis under listing 8.09 for chronic skin lesions. In order to be eligible for disability under the dermatitis listing, you must have a diagnosis of psoriasis with skin lesions that last for at least three months and are not responding to prescribed treatment. You could get benefits under this listing if you have serious difficulty standing, walking, using your hands and arms, or standing from a seated position with stability.
Here are some examples of lesions that could qualify you for benefits under this listing:
Social Security acknowledges that skin conditions frequently respond to treatment, but that response to treatment can vary widely, with some disorders becoming resistant to treatment. So to qualify for disability under the dermatitis listing, you'll need to show that your skin lesions persist despite three months of treatment.
Examples of treatment for psoriasis include:
Keep in mind that the three-month requirement in the listing criteria is different from the SSA's twelve-month durational requirement in order for the agency to consider your psoriasis a severe impairment. If you've been diagnosed with psoriasis for several years but experience "flare-ups" that don't respond to months of treatment, you might qualify for disability under the dermatitis listing.
Some people with psoriasis also have a type of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis doesn't have its own specific listing, but if your psoriasis symptoms don't meet the requirements for listing 8.05 and you're also getting treatment for psoriatic arthritis, you may meet a related listing.
Psoriatic arthritis can cause severe functional loss to major joints, such as the ankles, knees, and wrists. You might qualify for disability under listing 1.18 if your medical record contains documentation of all of the following:
If your psoriatic arthritis is bad enough, you might undergo reconstructive surgery on the affected joint. While most reconstructive surgeries are successful at restoring joint function, if you still have significant functional limitations twelve months after your surgery, you might qualify under listing 1.17 for reconstructive surgery of a weight-bearing joint. For surgery on the spine in particular, see our section on getting disability benefits for back problems.
People with psoriatic arthritis might also qualify for disability under listing 14.09 for inflammatory arthritis. Similar to the listings described above, meeting the inflammatory arthritis listing requires that you have a significant loss of functioning, as demonstrated by one of the following:
The listing criteria are often complex and can be difficult even for disability claims examiners to understand. So if you think you might meet the criteria for a listed impairment, you should ask your doctor to complete a medical source statement explaining why you qualify for disability. The SSA values the opinions of doctors whom you've seen regularly for medical treatment, especially if they specialize in treating your condition—such as a dermatologist for psoriasis or a rheumatologist for psoriatic arthritis.
While psoriasis is quite common, it's not often severe enough to meet the listing criteria. But you can still qualify for disability if your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis affects your functioning enough to keep you from working. If Social Security doesn't find that you're disabled according to a listing, the agency will then need to assess your residual functional capacity (RFC).
Your RFC is a set of restrictions describing how much you're able to do in a work setting despite your psoriasis. The SSA will review your medical records and activities of daily living in order to determine what you can and can't do at work. Your RFC will include all the functional limitations caused by your psoriasis (and any other medical conditions).
For example, if you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis on your fingers or hands, your RFC might limit you from work activities that involve typing, writing, or grasping objects. Likewise, if your psoriasis affects your feet, ankles, hips, or groin, your RFC will likely restrict you from jobs that require frequent walking, standing, or kneeling.
The SSA will look at your work history and compare the exertional and non-exertional requirements of your old jobs with the restrictions in your current RFC to see if you could do those types of jobs today. If the agency thinks you can return to your past work, you won't be found disabled, and your disability claim will be denied.
If the SSA doesn't think you can do your past jobs, then—depending on your age, education, and skills—the agency will usually need to see whether you can do other, less-demanding work. But if no jobs exist in the national economy that somebody with your RFC can do, Social Security will award you disability benefits under what is called a medical-vocational allowance.
Proving that you can't do any jobs is difficult, but not impossible. For more information, see our article on getting disability by showing you can't do even sedentary work.
Updated October 10, 2023