Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits After a Scleroderma Diagnosis

You still can’t believe how much your life has changed in just a few weeks. When you made an appointment with your doctor for a summer cold, you thought you would leave with some antibiotics—maybe some lotion for your dry skin. Instead, you got a diagnosis that could change the rest of your life.

Scleroderma Can Stop You from Working and Living Your Normal Life

Scleroderma, also called systemic sclerosis, is an immune disorder that causes a hardening of the tissues in the body. In some cases, only the skin is affected, causing contractions and hard patches of skin and altering a patient’s appearance. However, systemic scleroderma can affect the connective tissues throughout the body, causing the internal organs, esophagus, blood vessels, muscles, or joints to harden, making them less likely to function properly.

If you have been diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, you should consider filing for Social Security disability benefits, as complications of your condition will likely make it difficult to work. The Social Security Administration will provide payments to patients who can show that their scleroderma has:

  • Affected two or more organs or bodily systems to a significant degree
  • Caused a patient to suffer several symptoms or signs typical of the disorder, such as fever, malaise, fatigue, or involuntary weight loss
  • Resulted in foot problems, such as toe contractures or deformities which make it difficult to walk
  • Caused finger contractures or hand deformities that make it impossible to perform fine movements or fulfill the obligations of your job
  • Caused atrophy in one or both legs and feet, affecting the ability to move about
  • Resulted in atrophy of the upper body, rendering the patient’s arms inefficient or useless
  • Developed into Raynaud's phenomenon that has led to gangrene or ulcerations in the fingers and toes
  • Caused persistent symptoms that limit the patient’s daily living activities, ability to function in a social environment, or ability to complete work tasks in a timely or efficient manner

Your ability to describe the extent of your condition will play a major role in the outcome of your disability case. For example, scleroderma that causes tightening of the skin on the face and altered appearance may not seem as serious as a case that affects the internal organs, but it can have a devastating effect on the patient’s mood and social functioning. You will have to describe your condition and your complications in detail in order to provide a full picture of your disability to the Social Security Administration.

If your scleroderma has progressed to the point where you need constant care, you may not need to wait to receive your benefits. Fill out the contact link on this page to find out if you might qualify for the compassionate allowances program.

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska