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Pancreatitis

When Does Pancreatitis Qualify for Social Security Disability?

If you suffer from pancreatitis and your condition makes it impossible for you to work, you may be eligible for monthly Social Security Disability benefits.

A large gland located behind the stomach, the pancreas controls how food is digested and used for energy. It releases enzymes into the small intestine and insulin and glucagon into the body’s bloodstream. When your pancreas is functioning properly, the enzymes only become active when they reach the small intestine. But when a person has pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes inflamed, and the enzymes are activated before they should be, painfully attacking and damaging the pancreatic tissues.

People can suffer from either acute or chronic pancreatitis, and both are serious. Acute pancreatitis comes on quickly, but the inflammation usually diminishes after a few days of treatment. Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation that continues over a long period of time, which can cause permanent pancreatic damage and long-term inflammation resulting in internal scar tissue.

If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, and you can show that your condition prevents you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Because the pathway to benefits is complex and frustrating, it’s helpful to hire an experienced disability attorney to help you navigate the road.

The Social Security Administration has a set of rules in place to identify disabilities that are medically eligible for benefits. These rules are published in a handbook known as the “Blue Book,” and it includes a long list of various disabling conditions known as “listings.” Even though there isn’t a specific listing in the Blue Book for pancreatitis, you may be able to qualify under Digestive System Disorders or Endocrine Disorders if you can prove that your body is not properly absorbing nutrients and you have experienced unexpected and severe weight loss. To be eligible, you need to provide proof that your body mass index is less than 17.5 based on two individual evaluations. Both of these evaluations must be performed within a consecutive six-month period, at least 60 days apart.

If you don’t have medical evidence that meets the requirements of a Blue Book listing (and most people do not), you can still qualify if you can provide proof that your pancreatitis makes it impossible for you to sustain gainful employment. The agency will assess your “residual functional capacity”, or RFC, to determine if there’s any type of work you’re able to perform given the limitations caused by your condition, your age, your education, and your work experience. If the SSA determines that you’re unable to do any work on a consistent and reliable basis—including but not limited to types of jobs you may have held in the past—you may be approved for benefits.

Be prepared to provide a great deal of documentation and medical evidence to support your claim that you’re unable to work. It’s extremely helpful to your claim to include your doctor’s notes and opinions about how your condition limits your activities and impacts your ability to work. For example, your doctor should not simply state that you are “disabled” or “unable to work.” Rather, your doctor needs to explain how your pancreatitis interferes with your ability to sit, walk, or stand for long periods of time, and to reliably come to work everyday and maintain a productive pace.

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Call or email us for a free evaluation of your situation. We can help you avoid costly disability mistakes.