Lupus can be disabling, although some people have long periods of remission where they are little affected by this autoimmune disease. The question of whether this condition is a disability, from the point of view of attempting to collect disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the United States, is a little more complex. Lupus is not listed as a standard disability, but due to certain factors it can be considered one. People applying for any type of disability benefit must understand the factors that make lupus a disability and what conditions make an application more likely to be approved.
What can make lupus a disability eligible for benefits can be summarized in two separate definitions. It can be considered disabling if there is severe impairment of joints, muscles, eyes, respiratory system, cardiac system, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, blood function, skin, and cognitive or psychiatric function. Alternatively, SSI or disability benefit review boards may consider lupus a disability if two or more of these systems are moderately impaired or if other conditions such as chronic fever and weight loss occur.
Another way to judge lupus as a disability is to consider the individual’s current health and other factors such as age. A child with moderate to severe lupus is likely to receive SSI benefits if the parents qualify for income. Anyone who has been sick for up to a year, or who is considered sick by doctors for at least twelve months, may also qualify, especially if they are unable to work in their previous jobs.
The main reason the government doesn’t consider lupus just a disability is because of the variation in the degree of the disease. Some people are very sick with this disease and others have milder symptoms. In addition, lupus can be subject to flare-ups, where people sometimes get very sick but feel good and capable at others.
For lupus sufferers, these outbreaks make it difficult to maintain traditional jobs, and some people with lupus work for supportive employers, taking advantage of things like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if outbreaks occur. Still, employees are expected to show up for work most of the time, and if lupus gets seriously worse, work may not be possible. Some people find ways to stay employed by starting home businesses or working as independent contractors, but these lack the benefits of traditional work, particularly health insurance, and health insurance is hard to come by with a lupus diagnosis.
What is really needed for the government to consider lupus a disability is proof that it is disabling. Doctors need to document this thoroughly for patients trying to get financial assistance or even access things like cost-sharing Medicaid. People will typically have to demonstrate ways in which the condition makes things like work impossible, and they may need to undergo examinations by state doctors in addition to filling out paperwork and providing medical records.
There remains a history of automatic denial of disability claims, and this may be more common with a condition that is not always classified as a disability. If people get a rejection, they should persist and file an appeal. Appeals often lead to the approval of claims, although it is certainly recognized that this form of self-defense can be very difficult to do if people are severely affected by a disability. There are disability lawyers and advocates who can help expedite this process, although their services can be expensive.