man having pancreatitis painThe pancreas is an abdominal organ that plays a crucial role in digestion and metabolism. Not only does it produce enzymes and juices to break down sugars, starches, and fats, but it also secretes hormones, such as insulin, that help convert what you eat and drink into fuel for your cells and energy for your body.

Digestive enzymes typically activate in the small intestines. If activated too soon, the enzymes can attack the pancreas and result in pancreatitis. This common inflammatory condition is characterized by symptoms that include severe pain in the upper abdomen and diarrhea. For some people, these symptoms subside after a few days of treatment, but for others, they can persist for months, years, or be lifelong. 

If chronic pancreatitis affects your ability to work and prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity on a regular and sustained basis, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Here's what you need to know about getting SSDI benefits for chronic pancreatitis and how Keefe Disability Law's skilled Boston-based legal team can assist you.

Living and Working With Chronic Pancreatitis 

In addition to severe upper abdominal pain and diarrhea, chronic pancreatitis can cause other debilitating or disabling symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, increased pain after eating, oily bowel movements, significant unexplained weight loss, and malnutrition. Living with these symptoms can make working and making ends meet difficult, if not impossible, especially if they require you to take frequent breaks, spend a lot of time in the restroom, or call out sick regularly.

Qualifying for SSDI

When chronic pancreatitis prevents work or substantial gainful activity for 12 months or more, you may be eligible for SSDI. Unfortunately, getting approved for the benefits you need can be an uphill battle.

Meeting a Blue Book Listing 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book Listing of Impairments lists conditions considered severe enough to prevent gainful activity, as well as medical criteria applicable to the evaluation of those disabilities. Meeting the criteria for a condition listed in the Blue Book is the “easiest” way to gain approval for benefits. However, because chronic pancreatitis isn't included in the Blue Book, you'll either have to try to “equal a listing” or pursue approval for a different condition in the Listing of Impairments.

Equaling a Listing  

If you can't meet a listing, you can try to equal a listing. This requires completing a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, which is essentially a detailed evaluation of the impairments your chronic pancreatitis causes and the extent to which they impact your ability to work. The SSA will use the assessment to determine if your condition prevents all forms of employment or if you can return to the workforce with restrictions or reasonable accommodations. If the SSA examiner and medical consultant assigned to your case agree that you can't do work of any kind, they can grant SSDI benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. 

Applying for Benefits  

The SSDI applications process can be complicated, frustrating, and lengthy – the last things you need when dealing with a painful, disabling illness. Keeping these key points in mind can help the process go more smoothly.

What to Know When You Apply 

  • Most SSDI applications are denied in the initial stage of the five-step evaluation process, often due to preventable mistakes in the application paperwork or a lack of supporting medical evidence from acceptable medical sources for a medically determinable impairment.
  • Though chronic pancreatitis isn't included in the Blue Book, depending on your symptoms, you may meet the criteria for conditions in Section 5.0, Digestive System Disorders, or Section 9.0, Endocrine Disorders.
  • Working with an experienced disability attorney can help expedite this often-slow process and increase your chances for approval in the initial stage. 

Get Professional Help With Your SSDI Application 

Keefe Disability Law's skilled legal team is dedicated to helping clients apply for and obtain SSDI benefits. Complete our online contact form or call 508-283-5500 (toll-free 888-904-6847) to schedule a free review of your case. For additional information, request a complimentary copy of Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.

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