If you or someone you care for is unable to work due to Sjögren’s syndrome, read on for how SSA will evaluate your claim for Social Security Disability benefits. The Bishop Law Firm has represented disabled clients in North Carolina since 2009 and we do not get paid unless we win. Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095.
Overview of Social Security Disability Benefits
Attaining Social Security Disability can be a lengthy process. There are several levels that you may have to go through to get your claim approved: Initial, Reconsideration, Request for Hearing, the Appeals Council and District Court. But as with everything, the first step: applying for benefits at the initial level, is the most important. If you are unable to work because of Sjögren’s syndrome apply as soon as possible as delay may cause you to lose benefits.
Social Security offers two (generally) types of benefits for the disabled: Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is based on the credits from the work you have done in your life and is comparable to the amount you would receive in retirement benefits if you waited until your full retirement age to retire. SSI is a need based program that has income and asset requirements. Even if SSA allows you to apply for SSDI and SSI initially, they can send you an instant denial if you are determined to be ineligible for either type of benefit.
At each of the above levels, your claim will be evaluated under the Five Step Sequential Evaluation to determine if you are disabled. But don't be fooled, these five steps are complicated and not as straightforward as they seem. Also read The SSA Five Step Sequential Evaluation for more information.
What is Sjögren’s syndrome?
As with all autoimmune disorders, the body mistakenly attacks itself. Sjögren’s syndrome frequently co-occurs with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. Women over 40 years of age are at the highest risk of having Sjögren’s (Mayo Clinic). While some may believe that Sjögren’s syndrome is a rare disease, it is actually one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders (Sjögren’s Foundation).
As a systemic autoimmune disease, symptoms can range from dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain to organ/whole body system (e.g. central nervous or gastrointestinal system) dysfunction. Symptoms can range from mild to severely disabling and early treatment helps long term outcome. Treatments can range from eye drops to Plaquenil and immunosuppressants (e.g. Prednisone or Methotrexate) that have their own disabling side affects (American College of Rheumatology).
Social Security Disability for Sjögren’s syndrome
Simply being diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome (or any impairment) will not guarantee an approval for disability benefits. As we have written many times, the severity of your symptoms is more important than the name of your disorder. As discussed above, Sjögren’s syndrome symptoms can range from mild to severely disabling. If you only suffer from mild symptoms, the likelihood of being approved for Social Security Disability is low.
SSA can use the Listing of Impairments, the Medical Vocational Guidelines (Grids) or the combination of your impairments to find you disabled. In the Listings of Impairments, SSA has 14.10 Sjögren’s syndrome. However, this listing (as are most listings) is hard to meet. It requires involvement of two or more body systems with at least one of those symptoms being involved to a moderately severe level with at least two symptoms OR repeated manifestations of Sjögren’s syndrome. If you meet this listing, you are experiencing severe symptoms that make work the last thing on your mind.
The Grids may help people who are 50 years of age or older whose Sjögren’s has affected their ability to walk, stand and lift due to fatigue or other symptoms. Anyone under the age of 50 will find little help here. Lastly, SSA can use the combination of your impairments to find that you are unable to work. Around half the Sjögren’s patient population also has Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus. The combination of symptoms from your autoimmune disorders can definitely render you disabled especially when high doses of immunosuppressants must be used to control symptoms.
If your Sjögren’s syndrome is preventing you from working, you should apply for Social Security Disability benefits as soon as possible. Delay may cause you to lose benefits. The Bishop Law Firm represents Social Security Disability clients in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Cary, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Smithfield, Louisburg, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids , Winston Salem, Garner, Greensboro, Greenville and surrounding areas in North Carolina. Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095.