Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and obtaining Social Security Disability Benefits

In my Indianapolis disability practice, I see an increasing number of people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other digestive impairments.  One difficulty these clients experience when trying to convince the Social Security Administration (SSA) they are disabled is that they usually do not have any outward signs and symptoms.  I represent hundreds of clients with many different impairments, and a good number of them require a cane, a walker, or even an oxygen tank.  My clients with digestive issues, though, do not usually need any sort of assistive device.  That being said, after working with clients who deal with IBS and other digestive issues, it is clear to me that their impairments keep them from being able to work a full-time job.   Of course, it is always important to have good, solid, comprehensive medical records, including objective testing, doctor’s statements confirming your disabling condition, and clinical descriptions of the symptoms that prevent you from working.

The SSA addresses digestive impairments in its Listing of Impairments under Listing 5.00: Digestive Disorders.  These listings cover gastrointestinal hemorrhaging, chronic liver disease and liver transplantation, inflammatory bowel disease, short bowel syndrome, and weight loss due to digestive disorders.  The listings contain specific symptoms and test results you must demonstrate to the SSA in order to be found disabled based on your medical records.  If you review this listing but find that you do not experience all of the requirements of a listing, it does not mean that you are not disabled under the SSA’s rules; it simply means that you will have to provide additional evidence to show that you are disabled.  For example, a medical expert may review your records and determine that even though you do not precisely meet every requirement of a listing, your symptoms are sufficiently similar to those requirements that your impairment “equals” the listing.  Further, even if none of the listings apply to your combination of impairments, the SSA will evaluate the extent to which your symptoms affect your physical and/or mental capabilities to perform work.  In my experience as an Indiana Social Security disability attorney, I find that many of my clients do not meet or equal one of the listings, but instead have such a reduced capacity to perform job-like activities that they are considered disabled.

While the symptoms of IBS can vary, some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Excessive bowel movements
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Gas and bloating

Many of my clients with IBS complain of frequent bowel accidents; they must have immediate access to a restroom at all times, and they often wear adult diapers and keep a change of clothes with them whenever they leave their homes.  The urgency and frequency of numerous bowel movements may make it difficult or impossible to hold down employment in a competitive work setting.  Most Vocational Experts (VE) will testify at a hearing that an employee who requires frequent, unexpected restroom breaks will be “off-task” too much, and employers will not tolerate such a lack of productivity.  I have found in many of my cases in front of Administrative Law Judges that this argument can be a very strong point in obtaining a favorable decision.  I have won many cases involving Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  If you have IBS and have been denied Social Security benefits, it may be in your best interest to appeal that decision as soon as possible.

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The preceding is for your information only and is not intended as legal advice.

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