Facts about Anorexia and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a severely distorted body image, an unrealistic fear of gaining weight, and a body weight that is dangerously below the recommended weight for someone their age and height.
2. Anorexia nervosa, mostly commonly referred to as simply anorexia, is a predominantly female condition. Nearly 90 percent of all anorexics are female, and nearly 50 percent of these cases are young women between the ages of fifteen and nineteen years old.
3. While most people view this eating disorder as a food issue, it is a self image issue that is brought on my a lack of self esteem or self worth. It is not uncommon for those with anorexia to also have other issues, such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), depression, other personality disorders, substance abuse issues, and mental illness.
4. There are two types of anorexia. The 'restricting type' mainly loses their weight through restricting their diet, exercising and fasting. The 'purging type' engages in binge eating, followed by purging their food through enemas, laxatives and vomiting.
5. Symptoms of anorexia can range from confused and slow thinking, depression, dental cavities, dizziness, constipation, and no menstruation, to dry mouth, blotchy or yellow skin, low blood pressure, thinning hair, and a considerable amount of weight loss.
6. There are many signs of anorexia. Many anorexics cut their food into very tiny pieces. Some will restrict their food intake and some will eat large amounts of food very fast and then go to the bathroom directly afterwards to purge.
7. Other signs of anorexia are exercising compulsively, taking large amounts of diuretics, using enemas and laxatives, not eating, and looking emaciated due to weight loss.
8. Treatment for anorexia involves cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, and family based treatment.
9. Anorexia is a serious condition that can cause kidney damage, heart damage, brain damage, and can result in death if not treated.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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