Marfan syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue, tissues that strengthen the structure that reinforces the body’s organs. Marfan syndrome can affect the heart, blood vessels, eyes, skin, lungs, bones, and nervous system. Marfan syndrome also can cause the chest wall to abnormally cave in or protrude. Learning disorders, near-sightedness, hyper-flexibility, and scoliosis are also common complications of Marfan syndrome. However, the greatest risk from Marfan syndrome is aortic rupture or dissection and other heart-related disorders.
With proper medical care and management, people with Marfan syndrome now have nearly average life spans. However, some people with Marfan syndrome have dilation of the aorta aneurysms, which could limit them from lifting even a minimal amount of weight. In these cases, depending on the individual circumstances, Social Security may grant disability benefits.
A diagnosis of Marfan syndrome does not qualify for automatic approval under the Social Security Administration’s listings. However, if you develop an aortic aneurysm, one of the most common and serious complications of Marfan syndrome, you will be automatically approved if:
For more information, see our article on disability for aortic aneurysm.
If you don’t meet the requirements for aneurysm, other heart problems, or another impairment, you can still win your claim for disability if you can prove that the symptoms from your Marfan syndrome are serious enough to prevent you from working.
For example, many people with Marfan syndrome suffer from heart murmurs. Although most heart murmurs cause few problems, serious heart murmurs can cause dizziness, fainting, chest pain, bluish skin and nails (from lack of oxygen), an enlarged liver, and generalized swelling. Particularly if you suffer from poor oxygenation, you would be unable to work in environments that expose you to temperature extremes or to dust and other pollutants. Also, if your heart murmur causes problems with dizziness and fainting, you would not able to operate heavy machinery or do work at any height, and you would be limited in your ability to lift, carry, push, or pull items, and/or to walk or stand for any amount of time. The combined effects of these limitations would prevent you from performing most jobs with physical requirements.
To determine if there are any jobs you can do, the SSA will consider any limitations documented in your medical records and prepare a residual functional capacity assessment (RFC) that details how those limitations affect your ability to work. You should also ask your treating physician to prepare an RFC for you as well. The RFC should explain in detail the work-related limitations that result from your Marfan syndrome.
The SSA will use your RFC to judge whether there are any jobs you can perform, in which case your claim will be denied. For more information, see our articles on how Social Security decides whether there are jobs you can do.
Regardless what kind of impairment you have, you must meet the SSA’s basic requirements for disability: you cannot earn more than about $1,200 a month from working, and your illness must prevent you from full-time employment for at least 12 months. In addition, the two disability programs administered by the Social Security Administration have their own requirements:
SSDI. SSDI is a benefit available to people who have long work histories for employers who paid taxes to the SSA. For more information, see our section on SSDI eligibility.
SSI. SSI is available to people without qualifying work histories who have limited income and assets. For the details, see our section on eligibility for SSI.