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Does My Crohn's Disease Qualify Me for Disability Benefits?

Posted on in Social Security Disability

b2ap3_thumbnail_Crohns-disease-disability-benefits-Chicago.jpgApproximately 780,000 Americans suffer from Crohn's disease. Named for one of the doctors who first identified the disease in the 1930s, Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects a person's gastrointestinal tract. In severe cases, the symptoms of Crohn's disease may qualify a person for Social Security Disability insurance benefits.

Social Security Ignores Medical Evidence of Crohn's-Related Disability

Social Security officials do not always take Crohn's disease seriously. Recently, an Illinois federal magistrate ordered Social Security to reconsider the disability benefits application of a woman diagnosed with Crohn's disease nearly a decade ago. The magistrate expressly criticized a Social Security administrative law judge for ignoring medical testimony presented by the applicant's treating physician.

The physician, a certified specialist in digestive system disorders (i.e., gastroenterology), provided written evidence detailing his treatment of the applicant dating back to 2006. The doctor noted the applicant suffered from the following symptoms common in Crohn's disease cases: abdominal pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

While that may not seem, at first glance, to be disabling conditions, the doctor further explained the applicant's symptoms were so severe she could not “sit continuously in a work setting” due to her frequent overwhelming need to use the bathroom. Indeed, the doctor said the applicant would need “ready access to a restroom two to three times a day for approximately 30 minutes each time, often on an urgent basis.”

In fact, the applicant was forced to alter her lifestyle as a result of her Crohn's disease. She had developed a crippling fear of going out in public because of the risk she may not have immediate access to a bathroom. As a result, her physician concluded she was “completely disabled” and unable to work full time.

Social Security saw things differently. The ALJ assigned to the case afforded “little weight” to the physician's opinions, believing they merely reflected the applicant's “subjective complaints” and were inconsistent with his own treatment notes. Accordingly, the ALJ declared the applicant was not disabled and denied her claim for benefits.

But the magistrate said the ALJ misread the doctor's opinion and improperly substituted her own, non-expert medical judgment. Contrary to the ALJ's findings, the magistrate said the doctor's treatment notes “were consistent” and supported his ultimate opinion regarding the applicant's symptoms, prognosis, and limitations. In addition there was objective medical evidence, such as a colonoscopy, which supported the diagnosis of Crohn's disease. In other words, the doctor was not simply taking the applicant's “subjective complaints” at face value.

Do You Suffer From Crohn's Disease or Colitis?

Crohn's disease is a lifelong condition that seriously impacts a person's well-being. It is not simply a case of a person needing to use the bathroom more frequently than normal. If you are unable to work due to Crohn's disease or a similar condition, such as ulcerative colitis, you may be entitled to disability benefits. A passionate Chicago Social Security disability attorney can help. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC to schedule a consultation with an attorney right away.




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