June is Scleroderma Awareness Month!
A diagnosis of scleroderma does not automatically entitle a person to disability
benefits. The Social Security Administration recognizes scleroderma as a potentially disabling illness and includes scleroderma in their
listing of impairments. Nonetheless, if you have been diagnosed with scleroderma and
the disease is affecting your activities of daily living, it is a good idea to
be proactive and schedule a consultation with a Social Security Disability
Lawyer. We are always available for free consultations and don’t mind learning
about a person’s case well in advance of the actual date of the “onset of
disability” (the date when you can no longer work). We believe that a
conscientious disability attorney should be willing provide you with a free
consultation, particularly when you suffer from a serious condition such as
One of the reasons why we like to
talk to clients well in advance of filing for Social Security Disability Benefits
is that, in order to successfully obtain social security benefits, an applicant
must have the support of his or her doctor(s). Consequently, we urge our
clients to ask their doctors if they are willing to fill up social security
questionnaires and provide letters in support of their patient’s applications
for social security benefits. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t cooperate with
their clients and refuse to fill up these forms regardless of the severity of
their patient’s condition.
There are two basic ways that a
person can qualify for Social Security benefits due to scleroderma. An individual can meet the
requirements of a listing set out in Social Security's list of qualifying
impairments or show that he or she is unable to work.
The list of impairments is essentially a "blue book"
used by the Social Security Administration to determine whether an individual
meets the Social Security definition of disability. If a person’s condition
“meets or equals” the listing, then that person is automatically deemed to be
disabled. The listing for scleroderma (systemnic sclerosis) is contained in Section 14.04 of the listing:
14.04 Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma).As described in 14.00D3. With:
A. Involvement of two or more organs/body systems, with:
1. One of the organs/body systems involved to at least a moderate level of severity; and
2. At least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss).
B. With one of the following:
1. Toe contractures or fixed deformity of one or both feet, resulting in the inability to ambulate effectively as defined in 14.00C6; or
2. Finger contractures or fixed deformity in both hands, resulting in the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively as defined in 14.00C7; or
3. Atrophy with irreversible damage in one of both lower extremities, resulting in the inability to ambulate effectively as defined in 14.00C6; or
4. Atrophy with irreversible damage in both upper extremities, resulting in the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively as defined in 14.00C7.
C. Raynaud’s phenomenon, characterized by:
1. Gangrene involving at least two extremities; or
2. Ischemia with ulcerations of toes or fingers, resulting in the inability to ambulate effectively or to perform fine and gross movements effectively as defined in 14.00C6 and 14.00C7.
D. Repeated manifestations of systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), with at least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss) and one of the following at the marked level:
1. Limitation of activities of daily living.
2. Limitation in maintaining social functioning.
3. Limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace.If your condition is severe but not at the same or equal
level of severity as a medical condition on the list, then the Social Security
Administration must determine if it interferes with your ability to do the work
you did previously (during the last 15 years).
If you cannot do the work you did in the past 15 years,
the Social Security Administration will see if you are able to adjust to other
work. The Social Security Administration will consider your medical conditions
and your age, education, past work experience and any transferable skills you
may have. If you cannot adjust to other work, your claim will be approved. If
you can adjust to other work, your claim will be denied.