The pancreas, a large gland located behind the stomach, releases enzymes into the small intestine that helps digest food. It also releases insulin and glucagon into the body’s bloodstream to control how food is used for energy.


When your pancreas is functioning properly, the enzymes only become active when they reach the small intestine. But when a person has pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes inflamed, and the enzymes are activated before they should and begin to attack and damage the pancreatic tissues.

People can suffer from either acute or chronic pancreatitis, and both are serious. Acute pancreatitis comes on quickly, but the inflammation usually diminishes after a few days of treatment. Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation that continues over a long period of time, and patients have permanent pancreatic damage, and the long-term inflammation causes scar tissue.  

If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. However, you must be able to show that your condition is disabling, and you’re unable to work. Because the pathway to benefits is complex and frustrating it’s helpful to hire an experienced disability attorney to help you navigate the road.

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.” Even though there isn’t a specific listing in the Blue Book for pancreatitis, you may be able to qualify under Digestive System Disorders or Endocrine Disorders if you can prove that your body is not properly absorbing nutrients and you have experienced unexpected and severe weight loss. To be eligible, you need to provide proof that your body mass index is less than 17 point 5 based on two individual evaluations. Both of these evaluations must be performed within a consecutive six-month period, at least 60 days apart.

If you don’t have medical evidence that meets the requirements of a Blue Book listing, you still may be able to obtain benefits, if you can provide proof that your pancreatitis makes it impossible for you to sustain gainful employment. 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 condition. If the SSA determines that you're unable to do any work—including types of jobs you may have held in the past—you may be approved for a vocational allowance. Social Security will make this determination based on whether you can work an 8-hour day, five days a week, on an ongoing basis.

Be prepared to provide a great deal of documentation and medical evidence to support your claim that you’re unable to work. It’s extremely helpful to your claim to include your doctor’s notes and opinions about how your condition limits your activities and impacts your ability to work. For example, your doctor should explain how your pancreatitis interferes with your ability to sit, walk, or stand for long periods of time and your ability to effectively use your hands.

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. We can help. Call us for a free evaluation of your situation. At Cuddigan Law you have a team of professionals in your corner who know the system and will fight for your rights.



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