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If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis, you may find that you’re unable to continue working. Some employers do offer accommodations for your symptoms, including skin lesions, autoimmune problems, and joint pain — but not all employers. Either way, you may still find that your symptoms are too physically or emotionally taxing to work.
“I quit my job about two months ago. I had only been ... diagnosed two months before. But between the side effects from trying to find the correct medications and the ever-growing list of things that ‘were in my job description’, I had to quit,” wrote one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “I felt horrible, but now I know that it would have only gotten worse. … I’m finally starting to accept my decision and learn more about what psoriasis means for me.”
Fortunately, Social Security disability benefits may be available to people who have left their jobs due to psoriasis symptoms, helping to replace lost income.
Applying for a disability claim through the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) can seem daunting; appealing a rejected claim can prove even more challenging. Before you apply for disability, take some time to familiarize yourself with the process, including learning how the SSA determines whether your condition makes you eligible for benefits.
There are two federal disability programs in the United States, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In order to qualify, you must have a disability that prevents you from doing your current job or acquiring any other form of gainful employment.
Funded by payroll taxes, SSDI provides benefits to people with a recent full-time work history. If you are approved for SSDI, you can receive benefits six months after the date your disability began. You are eligible for Medicare 24 months after you start receiving SSDI.
SSI offers disability benefits to low-income individuals, regardless of work history. If you are approved, you can receive benefits in the next month. Additionally, you may be eligible for back payments of SSI if you became disabled before your SSI was approved.
In most states, SSI eligibility qualifies you for Medicaid. In Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and the Northern Mariana Islands, you have to apply for Medicaid separately from SSI, but the criteria are the same for both. Eligibility criteria for SSI recipients varies across states.
Almost every state provides an SSI supplement. The exceptions are Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The eligibility rules for supplements vary by state.
There is an asset cap to receiving Supplemental Security Income: $2,000 in assets for individuals or $3,000 for couples. The Social Security Administration has a list of which assets (“resources”) are considered. Your primary residence, household belongings, and one personal vehicle are not counted among these assets.
Getting both SSDI and SSI is an option for those who very limited funds and have a work history.
In determining your eligibility for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will evaluate the following criteria:
Applying for disability benefits requires considerable preparation and paperwork. The Social Security Administration offers a checklist of necessary application information. Consider enlisting assistance from a trusted friend, relative, or a knowledgeable professional if necessary.
“Contact the National Psoriasis Foundation and they will assist you in filing,” one MyPsoriasisTeam member recommended.
“[Note] what it's like on your worst days,” another MyPsoriasisTeam member suggested.” I know a lot of people feel like it's disingenuous, but it's really important because your bad days are what most affect your ability to work, and when it comes to chronic illness, we never truly know when it's going to be like that.”
Remember to detail how psoriasis affects your emotional and mental state in addition to your physical well-being. “Just be honest and very clear about your physical and emotional pain,” advised a MyPsoriasisTeam member. Don’t hold back your emotions.”
“Be sure to put the depression that comes along with [your condition] front and center,” another member suggested.
You can apply for SSDI online if you:
If you don’t meet any of those criteria, you can still apply at a local Social Security office or over the phone.
An application for disability benefits takes an average of three to five months to process. Approval can take even longer.
Only 21 percent of those who applied for disability benefits between 2009 and 2018 were approved on their first attempt. You can appeal the decision if your application is denied. The first step is reconsideration, when your case will be evaluated by someone who did not take part in the first evaluation. About 2 percent of applications that weren’t approved the first time were approved during reconsideration from 2009 through 2018.
If necessary, you have the option of filing a second appeal, which includes a hearing by an administrative law judge trained in disability laws. You may have a disability attorney represent you at this hearing. Some law firms specialize in disability hearings. In most cases, these disability lawyers do not require a set, upfront payment; rather, they will take a percentage of any benefits you do receive.
One MyPsoriasisTeam member found that enlisting a lawyer helped them secure benefits. “The first time they denied me, but my lawyer appealed it and requested a judge hearing. Once that happened, I was approved immediately,” they wrote.
If you are denied at this level, you can ask the Appeals Council to review your case and make a decision on it. About 8 percent of SSDI claims between 2009 and 2018 were approved during a hearing with an administrative law judge or the Appeals Council. If you are denied at this level, your last remaining option is a federal court hearing.
If you’d like to research more about disability benefits in countries outside of the United States, check out these resources, listed by country:
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. More than 87,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.
Have you applied for Social Security disability benefits for psoriasis? Do you have any advice about the process? Comment below or start a conversation on MyPsoriasisTeam.