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Is Ulcerative Colitis a Disability? How to Get Disability Benefits

Last updated: April 12, 2023

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 3 million US adults suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) because ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease have increased by one-third since 15 years ago. Because most people are diagnosed with IBD in their 20s and 30s, this statistic excludes children under 18 who can also be affected by IBD. While ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease share some symptoms and are both considered inflammatory bowel diseases and impact the person's Quality of life, there are also some differences.

Differences Between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease

The following symptoms both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease have in common, even if an individual only experiences some of them or they come and go:

  • Pain and cramps in the stomach
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Bowel movement is urgently needed
  • Blood in the rectal area
  • Feeling feverish
  • Appetite decreases
  • Losing weight
  • Experiencing fatigue
  • Sweating at night
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles

Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease causes inflammation throughout the digestive tract, not just the large intestine. Crohn's disease affects more parts of the digestive tract so that it can cause issues not typically associated with ulcerative colitis, including mouth sores, anal tears, ulcers, and infections. Physicians generally order X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or endoscopy to determine your disease.

Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are eligible for disability benefits if certain conditions are met since these IBDs can impair their ability to do full-time work. Those with ulcerative colitis may qualify for disability benefits if they meet the following conditions.

Diagnosis of IBD and Your Ability to Receive Disability Benefits

You can qualify for disability benefits if your doctor diagnoses you with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease under the IBD category listed in the Social Security Administration's Blue Book, section 5.06. Aside from the diagnosis, you must also demonstrate a specific complication caused by the disease that continuously affects your health and ability to function.

There may be a disability in the event of an obstruction in the stomach, intestines, or colon that requires imaging or surgery and hospitalization at least twice over six months, documented by imaging or surgery.

You may also qualify if you experience either of the following two conditions despite treatment within the same 6-month period:

  1. The hemoglobin level is less than 10.0 grams/dL in anemic patients
  2. Less than 3.0 grams of serum albumin per deciliter
  3. An abdominal mass that is clinically documented and palpable, as well as abdominal pain or cramping that prescription drugs cannot effectively control
  4. Pain that is not controlled by prescription medications due to a draining abscess or fistula in the perineum
  5. An intravenous catheter or gastrostomy is required to provide supplemental nutrition.

Applying for Disability Because of IBD-Induced Weight Loss

Inflammation and ulcerations can result from IBDs affecting the large intestine's lining. Through leaks in the colon lining, nutrients in your diet can leave the body through diarrhea, which damages the body's digestive system. Excessive weight loss can result from this complication. Suppose you lose much weight due to ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. In that case, you may be eligible for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration's list of weight loss conditions.

As a symptom of a range of other complications, weight loss is not considered a disability under the Social Security Act but rather a symptom contributing to your inability to work. Under section 5.08, specifically written to address "weight loss due to any digestive disorder," you can apply for benefits if you experience involuntary weight loss. To qualify, you must have been treated by a doctor and have recorded a BMI of 17.5 or less twice in 6 months.

Inability to do Full-time Work

If you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, you must show you cannot work for a full 12-month period before qualifying for disability benefits. There are times when you cannot engage in any gainful employment because of the symptoms and others when they completely disappear. Several months of the year, many people with this disease can work, which disqualifies them from being classified as "permanently disabled."

Anemia, diarrhea, and fatigue (which can affect your ability to work at an acceptable pace) are all symptoms associated with the disease that can limit your ability to work full-time. Your primary doctor should diagnose you with this condition and a specialist to increase your chances of qualifying for disability benefits. At the Social Security Administration, disability specialists place a greater emphasis on specialist diagnoses.

A disability advocate may also recommend keeping a journal for some period of time. The more specific you can be, the better. Keep a record of how you feel, any pain you are experiencing when you go to the bathroom, and so on. When keeping a journal, be as specific as possible; although describing your symptoms in detail can be embarrassing, it can be helpful.

Disability Attorneys Can Help

Disability benefits may be available to you if you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Since disability attorneys have helped thousands of others like you navigate the Social Security Administration's application process, they know how to prove your disability case.

Having a fear of rejection shouldn't prevent you from submitting your application. It is not uncommon for people suffering from diseases like cancer to suffer from anxiety, discomfort, and stress associated with working 40 hours or more per week to make ends meet. Ensure that you receive the benefits you are entitled to by hiring expert disability lawyers.

Applying for Social Security's benefits can be an overwhelming process. If you are interested in seeking SSDI benefits, check out our article on how to find the right disability lawyer. To learn more, please visit DisabilityHelp.org today!

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Zoey Appleton
Zoey has worked with Cheri for years and has been creating the best articles not only for Disability Help but for our readers. Her job hits close to home for she has a brother with special needs. She hopes to see science and technology pave the way for a better life, with Disability Help to cover it and share it with those that need it.
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