Between 10,000 and 20,000 people in the United States suffer with short bowel syndrome. This condition can lead to debilitating symptoms that make everyday life difficult, so people with the condition may need to file a disability claim. Find out why you may need to attend a disability hearing as part of your claim, and learn more about the steps you can take to increase your chances of success.
SBS and disability insurance
If a surgeon has to remove a large part of the small intestine, life can become very difficult, and you may find it almost impossible to hold down a job. Without an intact small intestine, your body may struggle to absorb water, vitamins and nutrients, which can lead to symptoms like bloating, cramping, weakness and (eventually) malnutrition. Other complications like peptic ulcers and kidney stones may also arise because of SBS. All of these symptoms may prompt you to seek disability because you can't keep working.
In the United States, the Social Security Administration potentially covers claims for SBS. Indeed, within the list of eligible impairments, the SSA lists SBS separately. However, a diagnosis of SBS alone may not automatically entitle you to claim disability. According to the SSA, to qualify for automatic cover, you must give evidence that a surgeon has removed more than one-half of the small intestine. You must also show that you are now entirely dependent on a special form of nutrition administered via a catheter.
However, if you don't meet these specific criteria, you can still file a claim for benefits. Nonetheless, to receive those benefits, the SSA will normally ask you to attend a disability hearing to explain why you need the support.
What to expect from a disability hearing
A social security hearing normally only lasts up to an hour, and the session is normally quite informal. However, you will still need to answer questions from a judge, whose aim is to make sure your application is genuine. Other people will sit in the session, and you can ask expert witnesses to attend on your behalf.
You must tell the truth during the hearing. Indeed, like a normal court case, a court reporter will swear you in. Crucially, you must also explain why your symptoms make it hard for you to work.
Answering questions about your SBS
It's important to explain exactly how your symptoms make your life difficult. For example, bloating and cramping may not sound serious enough to justify time off work, so you would need to explain how these symptoms impair your mobility and make it difficult to stay away from a bathroom for any lengthy period.
Vomiting is a common symptom of SBS, and some people with the condition vomit regularly throughout the day. In serious cases, you would need to explain how many times per day you vomit and how this makes it difficult to carry out normal tasks at work. Similarly, the lethargy, dizziness and weakness that arise from your SBS may mean you cannot safely work in certain environments.
It's important not to exaggerate, but you should also include all relevant details. For example, don't just tell the judge you "vomit all day." Instead, tell the judge that you vomit between 6 and 9 times and day.
Some complications from SBS may entitle you to claim disability under another section of the SSA rules. For example, extreme malnutrition and dehydration can lead to significant weight loss. If your BMI drops as low as 17.50, it may become possible to claim disability benefits under section 5.08 of the SSA rules.
To claim benefits for short bowel syndrome from the SSA, you may need to attend a disability hearing. Talk to an experienced disability attorney, such as those at Chichester Law Office, for more experience and advice.