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How To Get Disability Benefits for Psoriasis

Updated on April 30, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Annie Keller

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.

Disability Benefits in the United States

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.

How Is Disability Defined?

In determining your eligibility for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will evaluate the following criteria:

  • You are likely ineligible for monthly benefits if you earn $1,260 or more a month. If you earn less than that amount, you may still be eligible for a reduced amount.
  • You must be incapable of performing basic tasks required for most jobs, including standing for extended periods, walking, lifting, sitting, and remembering. You must not have been able to perform these tasks for at least 12 months.
  • You must have a recognized disability. The Social Security Administration provides a Listing of Impairments that prevent working. Psoriasis is listed under Skin Disorders.
  • You must be unable to perform any work you’ve done previously. A work history is not a prerequisite for receiving SSI.
  • You must be unable to engage in what the SSA calls “substantial gainful activity.” The Social Security Administration will consider your diagnosis, age, medical history, education, and work history, as well as any other marketable skills.

What Do I Need to Apply for Disability?

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.

Personal and Family Information

  • Your full legal name, date of birth, and Social Security number
  • Full names and dates of birth of your current or previous spouses, and dates of marriage, divorce, or death
  • Full names and dates of birth of your children
  • Bank account information

Medical Evidence About Your Psoriasis

  • The name and contact information for your dermatologist, rheumatologist, and other medical providers who can discuss your condition and medical records. “Make sure your health providers … are keeping good documentation of your treatment and how it affects you,” one MyPsoriasisTeam member advised.
  • A complete list of medications, both past and present, as well as results for medical tests such as X-rays and those that show joint damage, dermatitis, or extensive skin lesions. One MyPsoriasisTeam member recommended a thorough and organized approach to applying: “Take a notebook [and] the medical records you've gathered, and copy, copy, copy. For each question, put your medical records in the notebook by question and highlight the answers.”
  • A description of how psoriasis impacts your ability to do activities like shopping, cooking, cleaning, and other tasks of daily living.

“[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.

Complete Employment History

  • Earnings from the past year
  • Any current employers or ones you have worked for in the past two years
  • A complete work history from the past 15 years, including any jobs from before you became disabled
  • Whether you are getting or intend to receive workers’ compensation
  • Dates of any military service

Other Documents

  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security card
  • Proof of citizenship
  • W-2 or other tax forms from the previous year
  • Any medical records about your condition
  • Proof of any workers’ compensation you have received

You can apply for SSDI online if you:

  • Have never been married
  • Were born in the United States
  • Are between 18 and 65
  • Are not currently receiving benefits

If you don’t meet any of those criteria, you can still apply at a local Social Security office or over the phone.

What if My Disability Application Is Rejected?

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.

Consider These International Resources

If you’d like to research more about disability benefits in countries outside of the United States, check out these resources, listed by country:

You Are Not Alone

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.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Annie Keller specializes in writing about medicine, medical devices, and biotech. Learn more about her here.

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