Facts about Raynaud's Disease 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. Raynaud's disease restricts blood flow to the skin, causing the fingers, toes, nose and ears to become cold, numb and change color when exposure to cold temperatures or stress.
2. Women are more likely to develop Raynaud's disease than men, and onset typically occurs in teen or early adult years.
3. Those that live in colder climates are more likely to have Raynaud's disease.
4. Working with tools that vibrate can lead to developing Raynaud's disease.
5. Raynaud's disease symptoms occur in attacks that can last from under a minute to as long as several hours. Although exact symptoms may vary by individual, during an attack affected extremities usually first turn white; then blue, cold and numb; then red and tingly, possibly with throbbing or swelling as circulation returns.
6. An attack from Raynaud's disease can happen in just one finger or toe, up to all of them, and can vary from one attack to the next. Even lips and nipples can be affected, although that is more rare.
7. Attacks can be brought on by touching something cold, including washing hands in cold water or taking an item out of the refrigerator or freezer. Going outside on a cold day can also trigger an attack. For some people, emotional and physical stress alone, rather than exposure to cold, can cause an attack.
8. Raynaud's disease is typically mild and more of an annoyance to the affected individual than a health concern.
9. In the rare event that an individual has a severe case of Raynaud's disease, affected extremities could lose blood flow permanently and cause deformity. If blood flow is blocked completely it could cause ulcers on the skin to develop or healthy tissue to die permanently (called gangrene).
10. Taking niacin supplements can help treat Raynaud's disease by increasing blood flow. Niacin is vitamin B-3, and it helps open up blood vessels. Biofeedback is another alternative therapy that works by teaching the mind to control body temperature. This involves using imagery, deep breathing and relaxation.
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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