Facts about Irritable bowel syndrome 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. Irritable bowel syndrome is a common chronic condition of the large intestine, the colon, that causes uncomfortable symptoms yet does not increase health risks for conditions such as colon cancer.
2. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include abdominal discomfort such as cramping, bloating and pain, as well as diarrhea and constipation. Other common symptoms are gas and mucus in the stool.
3. In only a few cases do those with irritable bowel syndrome have severe symptoms.
4. It is thought that as many as one in five of all Americans experience these symptoms. It is also believed that less than half of affected individuals see a medical professional about their symptoms.
5. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are similar to those of many other, more serious conditions. A medical professional can test for other problems, which helps diagnose irritable bowel syndrome through the process of exclusion. A doctor can also give tips and medications to help manage the condition and relieve symptoms.
6. It is unknown what causes irritable bowel syndrome. It occurs more frequently in women under the age of 35, so hormones may play a role, and the condition may also be brought on by a stressful event or possibly an illness.
7. At least twice as many women than men have irritable bowel syndrome.
8. Irritable bowel syndrome, unlike inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's, does not cause more serious problems such as inflammation or changes in bowel tissue.
9. The most significant side effect of irritable bowel syndrome is the condition's interference with leading a normal daily lifestyle. It may be difficult to travel or keep plans with friends, sex may become painful or unappealing, and career development may be jeopardized by sick days.
10. Those with irritable bowel syndrome take around three times as many sick days off of work for discomfort associated with symptoms of the condition.
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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