Man holding liverChronic liver disease isn't a single illness but rather an umbrella term used to describe a category of diseases that affect the liver by gradually destroying healthy tissue and replacing it with scar tissue. More than 30 million people in the United States have some form of liver disease, according to the American Liver Foundation. In some cases, chronic liver disease can make working – or even completing basic daily tasks – difficult, if not impossible. Sound familiar?

If the symptoms of your chronic liver disease are severe enough to prevent you from holding a job or engaging in what the Social Security Administration (SSA) calls substantial gainful activity, you may qualify for disability benefits. Here's what you should know about applying for SSDI for a serious, long-term liver condition, including how Keefe Disability Law's experienced team of Boston disability attorneys can assist you.

Chronic Liver Diseases, Causes, and Risk Factors 

Diseases in this category can be caused by viral infections, problems with the immune system, genetic (inherited) conditions, cancer, and excessive consumption of toxins such as alcohol or saturated fat.

Chronic Liver Diseases

  • Cirrhosis
  • Viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, and C)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Primary biliary cholangitis
  • Wilson's disease 
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease  (NAFLD)
  • Alcoholic fatty liver disease 
  • Liver cancer (hepatoma)
  • Liver failure 

Qualifying for Disability 

You may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits if your chronic liver disease renders you unable to work or participate in substantial gainful activity. Though the SSA updates the substantial gainful activity income limit annually, in 2022, applicants could earn up to $1,350 per month (or up to $2,260 monthly if legally blind) without losing eligibility. There are two potential paths to approval for disability benefits. 

Meeting a Listing 

The Listing of Impairments, more commonly known as the Blue Book, describes qualifying medical conditions and the criteria the SSA uses when determining eligibility for benefits. Liver conditions appear in Section 5.00. Listing 5.05 covers chronic liver diseases, while listings 5.08 and 5.09 provide information on qualifying for SSDI when liver disease causes severe weight loss or after a liver transplant, respectively. 

To meet the listing for chronic liver disease, you must have had the condition for at least six months or been diagnosed with end-stage liver disease, and experienced at least one of the following complications:

  • Esophageal or gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Excess fluid in the peritoneal cavity (ascites) or pleural cavity (hydrothorax)
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Hepatorenal syndrome
  • Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis
  • Hepatopulmonary syndrome
  • End-stage liver disease with SSA chronic liver disease scores of 22 or higher

Equaling a Listing 

If you can't meet the criteria for listing 5.05, you can equal a listing by showing that your liver disease, as well as its symptoms, treatments, and complications, are severe enough to be truly disabling. This requires undergoing a residual functional capacity or RFC analysis.

Your doctor will complete a questionnaire detailing the diagnosis, prognosis, and progression of your liver disease, as well as the impairments you suffer as a result. It should include a description of your symptoms and their frequency, and information about how they affect your life and ability to function in the workplace. The SSA will want to know things like how long you can stand, how much you can lift, how often you need breaks or other accommodations, and whether the symptoms of your disease negatively impact your ability to interact with coworkers, customers, and others in an employment setting.

Applying for SSDI

The SSDI application process can be complex, confusing, and frustrating. The majority of first-time applicants are denied, often due to preventable errors in the application paperwork or because they failed to provide sufficient evidence from acceptable medical sources. For example, when applying for SSDI for chronic liver disease, make sure to include any emergency room or hospitalization records, liver value lab results, imaging scans, biopsy results, and doctors or surgical notes. Even better, reach out to our caring and capable Massachusetts disability lawyers to find out how we can offer skilled advice and legal guidance each and every step of the way. 

Talk to Us About Your Disability Claim 

Contact Keefe Disability Law online or call our office at 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule an appointment for a complimentary initial consultation. For additional information, request a free copy of The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer