gastrointestinal disorders

Our Louisiana Social Security Disability Lawyer Helps Clients With Digestive Disorders Navigate the SSDI Application Process

Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and other gastrointestinal (GI) conditions can cause debilitating symptoms that prevent substantial gainful employment. If you’re unable to work due to a digestive disorder, you could be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. At Phillip M. Hendry Law, our longtime Louisiana disability lawyer helps clients explore their SSDI eligibility, complete the application, and advocate for the benefits they need and deserve.

The esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas make up your digestive system, which breaks down the food you eat into the nutrients your body uses for energy, cell repair, and growth. A chronic gastrointestinal disorder can disrupt this vital system, resulting in symptoms that can make maintaining substantial gainful activity (SGA) difficult. Here’s what you should know about applying for SSDI for a digestive order and how Phillip Hendry can provide step-by-step guidance to help you complete this challenging process.

Gastrointestinal Conditions Can Cause Disabling Symptoms

Digestive diseases encompass numerous GI tract illnesses. These conditions affect 60 to 70 million people in the United States, causing an array of symptoms that can include:

  • Bloating 
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Incontinence 
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bowel movement issues
  • Significant weight gain or loss

For people living with chronic and severe gastrointestinal disorders, these symptoms are more than just uncomfortable; they can be genuinely disabling, disrupting daily tasks and reducing quality of life.

How the Social Security Administration Evaluates SSDI Claims

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step sequential process when determining your eligibility for benefits. Here’s an overview each step and what you should know when applying for SSDI for a GI condition.

1. Determining Substantial Gainful Activity 

Are you still working despite your digestive disorder? The SSA considers your average monthly income to decide whether you’re engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). The SGA limit changes annually; in 2024, the SGA amount is $1,550 and $2,590 for blind applicants. If your earnings exceed this amount, you won’t qualify for SSDI benefits, even if you have a disabling condition. If you aren’t working or your earnings are under the SGA threshold, the examiner evaluating your SSDI claim moves to Step Two.

2. Determining Severity and Duration

Next, the SSA considers the severity of your gastrointestinal disease. Your disorder must be severe enough to interfere with work-related tasks and expected to last for at least 12 months or to result in death. Claimants with conditions that don’t meet the severity and duration requirements won’t qualify for benefits. If you meet these prerequisites, the SSA examiner continues to Step Three.

3. Determining if You Meet or Equal Qualifying Conditions 

In this step, the SSA assesses your digestive impairments to determine whether they “meet” or “equal” the severity of a Blue Book listing. The Blue Book is a medical guide containing eligible conditions and the criteria for approval. Digestive disorders appear in Section 5.00. Examples of qualifying GI diseases include:

  • Chronic liver disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Intestinal failure
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhaging from any cause
  • Weight loss due to any digestive disorder
  • Liver transplant
  • Small intestine transplant
  • Pancreas transplant
  • Digestive system cancers

If your gastrointestinal disorder meets a Blue Book listing or equals the severity of a qualifying condition, the SSA will approve you for SSDI.

When your condition doesn’t meet or equal a listing, the SSA might ask you to undergo a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, which evaluates what work-related tasks you can do despite your impairments. The SSA uses information from the RFC assessment in Steps Four and Five.

4. Examining Past Relevant Work 

The SSA compares your RFC assessment results to your past relevant work to determine if you can do any of the work you once did. If you can perform past relevant work, the SSA won’t approve your application for SSDI. If you cannot perform past work, the SSA examiner handling your claim continues to Step Five.

5. Making Adjustments to Other Work

In the final step, the SSA considers your RFC assessment, age, education, and work experience to see if you can adjust to other work. If you can, the SSA will deny your SSDI application. If you can’t, the SSA will approve you for benefits.

Get Experienced Assistance With the SSDI Application Process

Let Phillip M. Hendry Law assist you with your application. We can help you avoid common pitfalls, such as paperwork errors or failing to include medical evidence from acceptable medical sources (AMS).
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