Facts about Tuberculosis 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. Tuberculosis is an infectious disease, typically affecting the lungs, that is caused by bacteria spread through the air. Most people with tuberculosis carry the disease but do not experience symptoms and cannot spread the disease.
2. Those with latent (no symptoms) tuberculosis may later develop active tuberculosis. This only happens in about one of every ten cases, but when it does, there is a much higher risk of death ' about half of these cases die from the disease. Overall, only about ten percent of people in the United States die from tuberculosis.
3. Tuberculosis is common around the world, although rate of active tuberculosis and risk factors varies from place to place. Africa and Asia have the highest tuberculosis death rates.
4. HIV and tuberculosis combined are often responsible for the death of a patient. Those with HIV are more likely to contract tuberculosis and have a harder time fighting the disease, even with affective medications.
5. Active tuberculosis causes weight loss, fatigue, fever, chills and sweats, lack of appetite, and occurs most commonly in the lungs resulting in persistent cough, often with blood, and chest pain.
6. Tuberculosis has been evident as far back as 9,000 years ago. The first documented study of human tuberculosis dates back to the 1020s, when the disease was first deemed infectious. The study also determined the infection could be spread through contaminated soil and water. It also associated the condition with diabetes.
7. There is evidence that the condition may be linked with belief in vampires, particularly before the Industrial Revolution, when tuberculosis became more widely understood. Pale skin, red eyes, low body heat and coughing up blood are all symptoms associated with vampirism.
8. The symptoms of tuberculosis led to the common name consumption, because it seemed that the disease consumed the person affected by it.
9. Now, tuberculosis is treatable with long-term antibiotics, especially when caught and treated early. If the particular bacteria causing tuberculosis is resistant to antibiotics, death is much more likely.
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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