Can connective tissue disease qualify for Social Security disability?
Ask the Advocate
June 22, 2019
Question: My rheumatologist just told me I have connective tissue disease. He is sending me out for more testing to determine what I have. I have not been able to work since 2017 due to severe fatigue. I also have muscle and joint pain and stiffness, weakness and many other symptoms. He is also telling me I should file for disability, but I'm only 29 years old! Can I qualify for disability?
Ask the Advocate: Connective tissue diseases are referred to as a group of medical diseases. A connective tissue disease has a primary target of the connective tissues of the body. The connective tissues are the structural portions of our body that essentially hold the body together. These tissues form a framework for the body.
Because many connective tissue diseases feature abnormal immune system activity with inflammation, the disease targets one's own body tissues (autoimmunity). Whatever the feature, it can be a very debilitating condition that can affect every aspect of your life.
The autoimmune connective tissue diseases include, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, polymyositis and dermatomyositis. These are considered classic connective tissue diseases. Each of these diseases has a "classic" presentation with typical findings that doctors can recognize during an examination. Each also has various typical blood test abnormalities and a variety of abnormal antibodies that are commonly found in blood. However, each of these diseases can evolve slowly or rapidly from very subtle abnormalities before demonstrating the classic features that help in the diagnosis.
Sometimes, in the early stages, doctors simply refer to the "undifferentiated" condition as a collagen vascular disease or undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD) until more defined symptoms appear; this can include fibromyalgia. The change into a more definable disease may occur over years or never happen. Furthermore, the undifferentiated features may, themselves, disappear at which point there is no disease at all.
Is it possible to get Social Security disability on the basis of connective tissue disease? Yes, when your disease process has been severely limiting, there are a couple of ways you can be approved for Social Security disability on the basis of connective tissue diseases. Age is not a factor if you meet the "listing" requirements.
First, Social Security has a disability listing for connective tissue diseases in its disability evaluation handbook. If you meet this listing, your disability claim will be approved.
Second, if you don't meet the criteria of the disability listing, you may still be approved for Social Security disability if your disease severely limits you in other ways. In fact, the majority of claims are approved not by meeting the requirements of a listing but because of symptoms and limitations caused by the disease, such as you have described. Social Security will examine a claimant's medical history and work history and may conclude that, based on functional limitations, age, education and work skills, the claimant doesn't possess the ability to return to their past work and can't transition to less demanding work.
An Accredited Disability Representative with more than 20 years experience, Diana Wade believes her clientele can be comfortable knowing that she is recognized by SSA and a charter member of NADR. To contact Ms. Wade call (661) 821-0494, email [email protected] or visit http://www.CaliforniaDisability.net