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Social Security Disability SSI and Auto Immune disorders

As a disability examiner, I saw social security disability and SSI cases for which nearly any physical, psychiatric, or psychological condition you can think of was named as a disabling impairment.

What's very interesting, though, is how many of those impairments (aside from musculoskeletal, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, and cardiovascular) were defined as an autoimmune disorder. In fact, an extraordinary number of impairments are auto-immune disorders.

Here's a list of just the autoimmune disorders I can think of:
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • MS, or multiple sclerosis
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Polymyositis
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • Vasculitis
  • Autoimmune Hepatitis
  • Crohn's Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Lupus
  • Grave's Disease
  • Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
Unfortunately, the various state agencies that adjudicate social security disability and SSI claims (known as, depending on the state you live in, the bureau of disability determination, disability determination unit, and, most commonly, as DDS, or disability determination services) do not provide any real training to disability examiners on the nature of autoimmune disorders.

Regarding the issue of medical-information training for examiners (please note that I did not say "medical training" but "medical information" training), there are two sides to the argument. One camp would say that you don't need to provide very specific and indepth training to initial claim adjudicators because the focus of the SSD / SSI definition of disability is on "residual function".

In other words, you don't have to know much about the disorder itself as long as you know what its limiting effects are. And, to a large extent, this is true, of course. The name or classification of a disorder is secondary to how it affects an individual's ability to work.

However, there's a hole in that argument. Learning more about any particular disease (not just auto-immune disorders, but any condition that may potentially become disabling) could allow for significantly greater competency on the part of a disability examiner to evaluate the medical evidence pertaining to it.

There is a very good chance that if you randomly selected 10 disability examiners, few, if any, would be able to provide a satisfactory definition of ankylosing spondylitis, or the debilitating condition multiple sclerosis. And on that subject, few, if any, would be able to define the term autoimmune disorder.

Residual functional capacity and the ability or inability to return to work----that is the focus of evaluating social security disability and SSI claims. But the question should be asked: how competently can you read and evaluate the MER (medical evidence of record) when you don't even really know what the disorder is.

Without a doubt, disability examiners should, for the benefit of claimants, receive ongoing medical information training. This would increase their competency and their ability to provide better writeups and case presentations for the unit medical consultants with whom they work (harder to do a writeup, I would think, when you don't really understand the "implications" of the medical evidence that you read and evaluate on a daily basis). Most likely, this will never happen, of course, due to funding and other issues.

By the way, autoimmune disorders are simply defined as disorders in which the body begins to produce antibodies to attack its own tissue. There are approximately forty medical conditions that carry the autoimmune disorder classification and around five percent of the population may ultimately be affected by an auto immune disorder.

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  • SSDRC Homepage:

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    The Most Basic questions about Getting Disability Benefits

    Social Security Disability SSI and whether or not you can work

    Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

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    More Social Security Disability SSI Questions and Answers

    Common Questions about Social Security Disability and SSI

    Winning Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits

    The SSI Disability Benefits Program

    Social Security Disability SSI and Doctors - Yours and Theirs

    Social Security Disability and SSI Claim Reviews

    Social Security Disability SSI System and Benefits for Children

    Denials, Appeals, and Getting a Disability Lawyer or Representative

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    Questions about Disability Lawyers and Hiring a Disability Attorney

    Various Types of Benefits including SSI, Mental, and Child benefits

    Social Security and SSI based on Mental Disability

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    Social Security Disability SSI: Medical Evidence and Records

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    For Individuals living in North Carolina

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    Related pages:

    What is the Social Security definition of disability?
    What does the social security administration definition of disability actually say?
    Why is the Social Security Administration definition of disability so strict?
    What does social security mean by disability, i.e. what is the definition?
    Social Security Disability, back pain, and sedentary, light, and medium work
    Social Security Disability, SSI, and low IQ
    Applying for disability with Schizophrenia
    Can I get disability for Rheumatoid arthritis?
    Social Security Disability, SSI, and autoimmune disorders
    Can you get disability for ankylosing spondylitis?

    Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

    Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

    These pages provide answers to basic questions about pursuing disability benefits

    Disability qualifications - Who will qualify is based on functional limitations
    What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
    How to file for disability and the information needed by Social Security
    What conditions do they Award Disability Benefits for?
    How does back pay for Social Security disability work?
    What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI? Part I
    To get a Social Security Disability or SSI Award do you have to have a Permanent Disability?
    Social Security Disability Status - when should I call to check
    Do Lawyers Improve The Chances of Winning Social Security Disability or SSI?
    What is qualifying for disability based on?
    How to qualify for disability - The Process of Qualifying for Benefits
    Receiving a Social Security Disability Award Letter
    How long does it take to get disability?
    Filing and applying for disability in Texas