Invisible illnesses for SSDIIf you see someone in a wheelchair, you might assume they cannot work a physical job. Some injuries heal. People get better. Other conditions can be chronic and last a lifetime. The thing is that many disabilities that stop people from working aren’t obvious at first glance. Are you applying for Social Security disability benefits in Massachusetts? You may wonder if “invisible” disabilities can still qualify.

Even when others can’t see it, a medical condition may stop someone from working. Day-to-day activities might be impossible. Hidden disabilities can be harder to prove. Even so, the Social Security Administration (SSD) still requires proof. That’s the only way they will approve your SSDI application. 

How to Qualify for Disability Insurance Benefits

It doesn’t matter if the disability is “visible” or “invisible.” Qualifying for Social Security disability works the same way. The Social Security Administration (SSD) maintains a Blue Book. This lists all the conditions that qualify for disability benefits. Some, but not all, hidden disabilities appear in this book. Rare diseases are added regularly. 

To qualify for benefits:

  1. The condition must last for at least 12 months or be expected to end in death.
  2. The condition prevents you from doing the work you’ve been doing.
  3. The condition prevents you from performing Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA).
  4. You meet the requirements for paying into SSD from work you’ve done. 

A big factor is proving you’re disabled and unable to work. This usually involves medical reports and testing. A credible Massachusetts disability attorney can help with this process. People with invisible disabilities can be accused of faking their condition. That’s why medical proof is so important. 

A random passer-by can’t see that someone has Lyme disease. But, diagnostic testing can confirm it. Medical imaging and expert assessments can further support your Social Security claim. The Compassionate Allowances Program may be an option too. 

Beyond Physically Obvious Disabilities

Many conditions can cause “invisible” symptoms, like chronic pain and dizziness. Examples of autoimmune diseases listed in the SSA Blue Book include:

  • Crohn's disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Type 1 diabetes

Other examples of hidden disabilities that qualify for SSD benefits are:

  • Brain trauma
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Some cancers
  • Stroke

Some hidden disabilities can cause auditory or visual impairments too. If you cannot hear or see properly, you may not be able to do your job properly either. 

Many of these conditions and disabilities can cause a great deal of pain and limit mobility. They can make it very difficult to complete daily tasks, let alone work a job. Work with an experienced lawyer who can help you present the strongest case. 

Mental Health Is a Disability

A physical disability isn’t the only thing that can stop someone from working. By and large, mental illnesses can be invisible. It can be hard to see that someone has PTSD. But, mental health is health as well. It also means that mental conditions can be harder to prove. Unless the symptoms are extreme, supporting this claim could take more work.

Examples of mental conditions that qualify for SSD include:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia

Look back at the SSD requirements above. Any of these mental conditions can last for more than 12 months. They can stop someone from being able to work. And since they are in the Blue Book, a path to approval is possible. Psychological testing can help your SSDI claim. That’s the type of medical proof the SSA wants to see.

How an Experienced Disability Lawyer Can Help

Many illnesses are in the SSA Blue Book. But, the list is not comprehensive, and it can be extra challenging for people with hidden disabilities. An experienced Boston area lawyer can assess your case. They can then help put together the strongest SSD application possible.

It is possible to apply with more than one condition. You may have one condition that is on the list. And, you may have another hidden condition that isn’t on the list. While that doesn’t double your payment potential, it can build a stronger case for approval. One condition can worsen the symptoms of the other illness. 

Even if your invisible disability is not in the SSA Blue Book, you can still qualify for benefits. It goes back to proving you’re disabled and unable to work. This includes explaining and showing the severity of the condition. A lawyer can help show equivalence with a listed condition. They can also request a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. This assesses your ability to do work-related tasks. 

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