Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal infection that is characterized by painful coughing and wheezing. While some forms of coccidioidomycosis resolve without intervention, others can leave you critically ill and unable to work. Fortunately, patients with the more serious form of coccidioidomycosis may be eligible to receive Social Security (SS) Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Learn more about this mysterious fungal infection and how to apply for SS benefits if you were diagnosed with the condition.
What Is Coccidioidomycosis?
Coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley Fever, is a rare fungal infection caused by coccidioides organisms that live in the soil. These organisms are kicked up into the air by wind, farming, or construction where people can breathe the fungal spores into their lungs. While most people who are exposed to the coccidioides fungi do not become ill, those who do can experience a variety of symptoms that range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. They symptoms can last from several weeks to several months and, in some cases, even longer. Coccidioidomycosis and its symptoms are considered particularly dangerous to patients with immune system disorders such as HIV or AIDs.
There are three kinds of coccidioidomycosis. The first, known as acute coccidioidomycosis, is a mild infection that usually resolves on its own and may cause flu-like symptoms such as:
- Chest pain
- Fever and/or chills
- Night sweats
- Body aches
- Red rash with blisters
The second form, known as chronic coccidioidomycosis, is actually the progressive form of the milder type of the infection. Resembling chronic pneumonia, chronic coccidioidomycosis is usually treated with an antifungal medication and may cause the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Low-grade, persistent fever
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blood-tinged esophageal discharge
- Nodules in the lungs
Disseminated coccidioidomycosis is the third and most serious form of this condition. It occurs when the infection spreads beyond the lungs and lymph nodes into other parts of the body. Although this type of coccidioidomycosis is very rare, it is quite concerning, as it can cause meningitis (an infection of the fluid and membranes that surround the spinal cord and brain) and even death. Symptoms may include:
- Serious nodules, skin lesions, and ulcers
- Swollen and painful joints
- Painful skull, spine, or bone lesions
Applying for SS Benefits for Coccidioidomycosis
Generally, the acute and chronic forms of coccidioidomycosis are not considered serious enough to make a patient eligible for SS benefits. However, disseminated coccidioidomycosis is listed in the SSA's “Blue Book” Listing of Impairments for patients with preexisting HIV or AIDs. Patients who have HIV or AIDs, as well as disseminated coccidioidomycosis, will likely be approved for SS benefits.
However, even patients with disseminated coccidioidomycosis who don't have preexisting HIV or AIDs may be approved for benefits if they can show that the infection affects their ability to work and engage in substantial gainful employment (SGA). To demonstrate this to the SSA, you need your doctor to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form describing your diagnosis and prognosis, as well as how your condition affects your ability to perform work-related tasks such as lifting, standing, concentrating, and following directions.
If You Need Help Applying for SS
Applying for SS benefits for any illness can be daunting—but it may be particularly challenging when the condition you have is rare. Don't waste valuable time trying to work through the SSA's lengthy and complex application process on your own when an experienced disability attorney can be there to guide you. For a free evaluation of your disability case or to request a free copy of the book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability, contact the knowledgeable attorneys with Keefe Disability Law. We're eager to help you secure any benefits you may deserve.