After suffering for months or even years with alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation, you may be diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). While the condition can be truly miserable and, in some cases, debilitating, an IBS diagnosis on its own is often not enough to qualify a patient for Social Security (SS) Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). While IBS patients  stomach problemsmay face challenges when applying for SS disability, it is possible to receive benefits for this condition.  A carefully documented medical history and representation by an experienced disability attorney can help strengthen your case.

What Is IBS?

IBS is a very common chronic gastrointestinal disorder that's thought to affect up to 25 percent of people in the United States. More commonly diagnosed in women under the age of 35 than in men of any age, IBS affects the large intestine, causing a range of uncomfortable symptoms. However, unlike conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, IBS does not increase the risk of colorectal cancer or cause changes in bowel tissue.

The condition is characterized by the following symptoms, which can vary in severity from mild to uncomfortable to debilitating:

  • Bowel cramping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Mucus in the stool


The exact cause of IBS is unclear. However, doctors and scientists have identified a number of factors that may play a role in the condition, including hormonal imbalances, an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines, and an unhealthy diet or certain “trigger foods.” Emotional stress may also be a contributing factor, as most IBS patients find that their symptoms are triggered or worsened when they're stressed, angry, overwhelmed, tense, or depressed.

For most patients, the symptoms of IBS come and go and can vary dramatically in their severity. Many IBS patients are able to manage their condition and find relief with treatments such as antibiotic use to help control intestinal bacteria, dietary and lifestyle changes, counseling, and the use of antidepressants to control emotional stress. In rare cases, surgery may be required.

Applying for SS Benefits for IBS

Living with IBS can be challenging and unpleasant. A patient may need to restrict his daily activities, may ultimately lose interest in things he once previously enjoyed doing, and may need to take frequent and unscheduled trips to the restroom. Because IBS is not listed in the SSA's “Blue Book” Listing of Impairments, being diagnosed with the condition is not enough to ensure that a patient will be able to receive SS benefits.

However, IBS patients may still qualify if the symptoms of their condition prevent them from working and reduce their productivity by more than 20 percent. To demonstrate disability due to an inability to work, ask your gastroenterologist to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form on your behalf. The RFC documents both your diagnosis and prognosis, as well as the limitations you may face when attempting to perform work-related duties. Your doctor can note issues you face such as concentrating on tasks, following directions, and working with others, as well as difficulties you may have with physical tasks such as standing, sitting, walking, lifting, and bending.

Do You Need Help Applying for SS?

When you apply for SS benefits, there are a number of advantages to working with a skilled disability attorney. For example, a disability attorney understands the SS application process and can help ensure that your application isn't missing any vital information before you submit it. Additionally, if you're denied benefits, an attorney can appeal that decision and help you fight for the benefits you need and deserve.

Contact the knowledgeable disability attorneys with Keefe Disability Law today for a free evaluation of your case or to request a free copy of the book, 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 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


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