Hepatitis C and Disability Benefits
If hepatitis C is affecting your ability to support yourself, there is help. Individuals with chronic conditions such as hep C may qualify for federal Social Security disability benefits. Media, PA disability lawyer Lisa M. Ritacco offers competent, confidential representation to individuals filing for Social Security disability due to hepatitis C and related conditions.
Is Hepatitis a Disability?
The term “hepatitis” refers to a family of diseases primarily affecting the liver, of which hep A, hep B and hep C are the most common. Hep A is an acute condition that usually goes away without treatment. Hep B and, in particular, hep C can progress to a chronic condition with symptoms ranging from headaches and fatigue to jaundice and liver disease. Approximately 75-85% of Americans infected with hep C will see the disease progress to the chronic stage. Particularly in older or immunocompromised individuals, the symptoms of chronic hep C may be severe enough to limit their ability to earn a living.
Does Hepatitis C Qualify for Disability?
Because the severity of hep C can vary from individual to individual, qualifying for disability benefits is not as simple as confirming a diagnosis of the disease. To receive benefits, you must demonstrate that your disease will prevent you from working for a period of 12 months or more. As outlined by the Social Security Administration, four specific iterations of hepatitis qualify for disability benefits: viral hepatitis, toxic hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis and ischemic hepatitis. Having medical evidence establishing specific, recurring symptoms or related conditions caused by hepatitis— such as internal bleeding, liver disease or hepatic encephalopathy — will strengthen your claim.
Getting Disability for Hepatitis C
Individuals affected with chronic hep C can file for disability through either the Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. If you have previously worked and paid into Social Security, you may qualify for SSD. Individuals who don’t qualify for SSD for whatever reason may still receive benefits through SSI, a need-based program. To find out more about which program you qualify under, and how to begin your claim, contact the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco today. With over nine years of experience helping clients with chronic hep C file for disability, Ritacco and her team can assess your case and give you expert advice on how to proceed.
Denied Hepatitis C Disability Benefits?
There are many reasons why you may be denied hepatitis disability benefits. Some patients take medications such as ribavirin, boceprevir, telaprevir and pegylated interferon alpha to make their hepatitis C virus viral load almost undetectable. In some cases, patients have symptoms that aren’t very overt.
Hepatitis C is a progressive illness and it leads to liver damage, liver cancer and liver failure over time. However, symptoms of the condition can be subtle and can progress gradually. Some of the symptoms of Hepatitis C can include fatigue, fever, anemia, insomnia, vomiting, depression, nausea, memory problems and poor concentration. Some of these symptoms may be hard to quantify, and medical professionals may initially dismiss some of them.
Any problems you have had with documenting or proving your Hepatitis C symptoms or condition can lead to your benefits being denied. Generally, patients with this condition are diagnosed as having chronic liver disease and qualify for benefits under this listing or can prove their symptoms prevent them from working full time. If your symptoms are not serious enough to prove you qualify for benefits as someone with chronic liver disease and you do not provide adequate documentation that your symptoms prevent you from working, you may be denied benefits.
In these cases, it is important to consult with a hepatitis lawyer. A hepatitis attorney can refer you to a medical professional specializing in hepatitis and liver conditions. They can subpoena medical records to prove your symptoms and medical condition and can take additional steps to prove you qualify for benefits.
Proving Hepatitis Disability Eligibility
If you want to prove your hepatitis disability eligibility, you generally have to prove one of two things:
- You meet the Social Security requirements for disability for chronic liver disease. This means you will need to show you have been diagnosed with a chronic liver disease, such as Hepatitis C or liver cancer or other ailment related to your hepatitis. In addition, you must also prove you have suffered a related complication from the condition, such as fluid in your pleural or peritoneal cavity, hepatorenal syndrome, internal bleeding or hepato- pulmonary syndrome. You will need to prove that you have suffered serious liver damage and that you have hepatitis.
- You can show your condition negatively and significantly affects your capacity to work. If you cannot prove your liver has been damaged enough to warrant benefits under the Social Security listing for chronic liver disease, you may qualify for benefits if you can demonstrate you cannot work full-time or have a reduced functional capacity. For example, if your doctor concludes you cannot stand or sit for long periods of time because of your hepatitis, you may qualify for disability or Social Security may decide you qualify for different jobs that accommodate your condition.
Proper documentation and the correct diagnosis from a doctor with extensive experience in hepatitis can help you prove you qualify for benefits. If you are having a hard time establishing your eligibility, contact a benefits attorney to help you prepare a stronger application or appeal.
If you have chronic hep C and have been denied benefits under SSI or SSD, contact Lisa M. Ritacco today. Approximately 65% of disability claims are rejected on their first application, often due to insufficient evidence or other technicalities. As a disability lawyer who focuses exclusively on SSI and SSD, Ritacco can represent you throughout the appeal process and may be able to help you get your decision reversed. Your initial consultation is free, and there is no fee unless the case is decided in your favor.