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Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI with Crohn's Disease

Crohnís disease affects about 600,000 men and women in the United States and Canada alone. Currently, there is no pharmaceutical or surgical cure for Crohnís disease. All treatment is geared toward controlling symptoms, maintaining remission and preventing relapses.

Considered an autoimmune inflammatory gastrointestinal disease, Crohnís disease generally manifests itself in the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, causing abdominal pain, vomiting, and weight loss.

However, the disease can exhibit significant extraintestinal (other than intestinal) manifestations in other body systems. These extraintestinal manifestations of Crohnís might include non-destructive inflammatory arthritis, inflammations of the eye, skin rashes and ulcers, and for a small percentage of people, neurological complications.

Social Security defines disability as any medically determinable mental or physical condition that A) has prevented the performance of substantial and gainful work activity for twelve months, or B) is expected to prevent the performance of substantial and gainful work activity for twelve months, or C) is expected to result in death.

Social Security evaluates Crohnís disease using the disability guidebook impairment listing 5.06 Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The following sections of listing 5.06 detail what is needed to meet or equal the listing requirements for Crohnís disease:

A. Blockage of stenotic areas in the colon or small intestine with dilation of nearby areas. Medically acceptable imagining techniques or surgery must substantiate the obstructions and the obstructions require a hospitalization for intestinal decompression or surgery. The listing requires that an individual must require hospitalization on two occasions with the above procedures at least sixty days apart in a six-month period.


B. Two of the following in spite of ongoing treatment as prescribed, and happening within the same consecutive six month period.
  1. Anemia with hemoglobin levels of less than 10.0b/dL (on two tests at least 60 days apart).

  2. Serum albumin levels of 3.0g/dL or less (on two tests at least 60 days apart).

  3. A palpable abdominal mass that is clinically documented with abdominal pain and cramping that is not completely controlled by narcotic pain medication. This must be present on two examinations at least sixty days apart.

  4. Perineal disease (usually starts as inflammation of the perineal area that progresses to fistula or abscess) with fistula or draining abscess for which narcotic pain mediation does not completely control the pain on two examinations at least 60 days apart.

  5. Weight loss (involuntary) of at least ten percent from baseline, as calculated in kilograms, pounds or body mass index (BMI) on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart.

  6. Supplemental nutrition is required daily via enteral nutrition through a gastrostomy or parenteral nutrition though a central venous catheter.
If a personís impairment does not meet any of the criteria of listing 5.06, Social Security will consider the effects of other Crohnís disease manifestations outside the intestinal system in order to determine if their impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of another impairment listing.

It is important to remember that the Social Security disability program is two-fold in that it considers medical information along with the limitations imposed by an individualís impairment.

Social Security disability is based upon an inability to perform substantial work activity (See SGA monthly earnings amount) due to the limitations imposed by a medically determinable mental or physical impairment for a period of twelve months or more. Since Crohnís disease is a condition that exacerbates and remits, it can be difficult to be difficult to meet the twelve month durational requirement of Social Security disability.

If a person cannot meet or equal any impairment listings associated with their Crohnís disease symptoms, they still may be approved on the basis of a medical vocational allowance. Disability examiners consider an individualís age, education, residual functional capacity, past work and ability to do other work when limitations are considered.

While some may be able to be approved for disability benefits through medical vocational allowances, many will not. For those who are not approved for disability benefits, it is important to appeal disability denials all the way through to the level of an administrative law judge hearing. The national average for administrative law judge hearing approvals is sixty percent percent making it the most winning level of the Social Security disability process.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related Body System Impairments:

Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI with Crohn's Disease
Facts about Crohn's Disease and Filing for Disability
Social Security Disability SSI and Filing based on Lupus
Polychondritis and Filing for Disability
Bursitis and Filing for Disability
Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease and Filing for Disability
Costochondritis and Filing for Disability
Ankylosing Spondylitis and Filing for Disability
Polymyositis and Filing for Disability
Hidradenitis Suppurativa and Filing for Disability
Behcet's disease and Filing for Disability
Lupus, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits

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 answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria