As the body’s largest organ, the liver is called a “metabolic factory” because of its role in changing food into energy after being digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. An interesting characteristic of the liver is that it can often regenerate after it’s been damaged. However, if there's severe injury to the liver, or it has been damaged over a long period of time, the organ creates scar tissue, which reduces the liver’s ability to function. Eventually, this leads to chronic liver failure. There are over 100 types of liver diseases including cirrhosis. More than 200 thousand people develop chronic liver disease each year. If you’re unable to work because you suffer from liver disease, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

Liver disease is lumped into one large category by Social Security for the purposes of determining disability eligibility. Regardless of whether you are suffering from hepatitis, cirrhosis, or some other form of liver disease, Social Security applies the same tests and standards to determine whether or not you qualify for disability payments. If you have been diagnosed with liver disease, your doctor will have already performed most of these tests in the process of your diagnosis and treatment. It’s also quite probable that your doctor will have a good idea whether or not you are likely to meet the requirements for disability benefits.

There are two ways you can qualify for Social Security disability.

The first is to meet a Social Security listing. The Social Security Administration has a set of procedures in place to identify disabilities that are medically eligible for benefits. These procedures are published in a handbook known as the “Blue Book,” and it includes a long list of various disabling conditions known as “listings.” To be eligible for Social Security disability and meet the requirements of the Blue Book’s chronic liver disease listing, you must be diagnosed with end-stage liver disease or chronic liver disease that's lasted at least six months. In addition, your health must also to be complicated by a variety of related conditions, including the excess buildup of fluid in the peritoneal or pleural cavity or gastrointestinal or esophageal hemorrhaging.

Very few people who apply for Social Security disability benefits meet the strict requirements of the Blue Book listings, but there is a second way to qualify—by proving that you are unable to work due to your liver disease. Social Security will look to see if your condition has caused you functional limitations that prevent you from working. The agency will assess your “residual functional capacity” or RFC to determine if there’s any type of work you’re able to perform given the limitations caused by your symptoms and the side effects of your medication or treatments. For example, if you suffer bouts of nausea and vomiting and need to take periodic breaks from work, your RFC should note this. Bear in mind that the burden is on you to prove that your liver disease prevents you from performing any meaningful work, so any limitations or symptoms caused by your liver disease should be recorded in your medical report.

If you suffer from chronic liver disease, including hepatitis C, or cirrhosis and you can no longer participate in everyday activities or sustain gainful employment, call us Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your disability case.



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