Can I Get Disability Benefits for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

If you have IBD (like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term that describes a group of disorders that cause inflammation in the intestines. There are two primary types of inflammatory bowel disease:

  • Crohn's disease, which can affect any part of your digestive tract, and
  • ulcerative colitis, which is limited to your large intestine and colon.

In addition, diverticulitis is a sometimes-related form of inflammation in your large intestine. Like IBD, diverticulitis symptoms aren't usually constant but can flare up and then recede.

Inflammatory bowel disease can cause severe symptoms that might make it extremely difficult for you to work. If you can't work because of IBD, you might qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but you'll need to meet some specific requirements.

Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease a Disability?

Social Security has included Inflammatory Bowel Disease in its list of impairments called the Blue Book. To meet the requirements of Social Security's IBD listing (5.06), your bowel disease must be documented by endoscopy, biopsy, surgery, or appropriate imaging (like a CT scan or x-ray).

To qualify for disability benefits for IBD, your bowel disease needs to have caused severe weight loss, chronic anemia, or a physical abnormality such as a bowel obstruction, abscess, fistula, or tender abdominal mass. For more information on the disability requirements for your specific bowel disease, read our articles on:

Also, IBD is sometimes confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It's usually more difficult to get disability benefits for IBS than for IBD, but it's not impossible.

How to Qualify for SSDI and SSI: Non-Medical Requirements

Even if your IBD qualifies as a disability under Social Security's medical rules, you must meet certain non-medical requirements to be eligible for disability. The specific requirements depend on which benefit(s) you're applying for—SSDI, SSI, or both.

For SSDI eligibility, you must have worked and paid Social Security taxes—FICA or self-employment tax. And you must have worked long enough to have earned the required amount of work credits.

Since SSI disability is for low-income applicants, the non-medical requirements are based on your income and assets. (Although your citizenship or immigration status is also a factor.) Learn more about the specific income and asset limits you must meet to qualify for SSI.

How to Apply for Disability for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

You can apply for Social Security disability online or by phone at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778). You can also contact your local SSA office to get help completing your application in person.

In addition to your name, Social Security number, and work history, the SSA will need records of your medical evidence, including:

  • clinical and laboratory findings
  • your doctor's notes (including specific statements about how your IBD limits your ability to work), and
  • medications and treatments you've tried (plus how well they work and whether they caused any serious side effects).

Get more information about how to gather the medical evidence you'll need to prove you qualify for Social Security disability because of your inflammatory bowel disorder.

Updated August 22, 2022

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