Social Security Disability Benefits for Cirrhosis

Learn the basics of getting Social Security Disability benefits on the basis of cirrhosis of the liver.

Cirrhosis of the liver is a progressive, chronic disorder  that causes healthy liver tissue to be replaced by fibrous scar tissue.  The replacement of healthy liver tissue results in a progressive loss of liver function, which may lead to the need for a liver transplant.

Causes and Treatment

Cirrhosis of the liver is most often associated with alcohol abuse or hepatitis C. However, there are a variety of other causes.  

Some types of cirrhosis damage can be stopped or delayed with medications and avoidance of alcohol (if your cirrhosis is alcohol-related). However, once liver damage has occurred it is irreversible to some extent. Some severe cases of cirrhosis may require a liver transplant, if the cirrhosis patient is an acceptable transplant candidate.

Disability for Cirrhosis

Can a disability claim be won on the basis of having cirrhosis? Depending on the severity of cirrhosis and the extent to which an individual is incapacitated from engaging in their past work or any other type of work, the answer is yes.

The SSA evaluates cirrhosis  under the section in the impairment listing manual  devoted to chronic liver disease. Included in this section are other liver-related conditions such as chronic hepatitis and Wilson's disease.

A disability claims examiner who sees an allegation of cirrhosis will look for  documentation in the applicant's medical record that the applicant has had esophageal bleeding and varices, ascites (excess fluid in the abdominal cavity), and elevated serum bilirubin levels.  Physical findings and lab values are integral to a cirrhosis case. A  liver biopsy indicating chronic liver disease should also be in the file.  

For the details on the requirements of the SSA's impairment listing, read our article on disability for chronic liver disease.

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