More than four million Americans suffer from Hepatitis C, an infectious virus that is spread through contact with blood. It is a chronic illness that cannot be cured.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects the liver. Over time, the liver may swell and scar (cirrhosis). This can lead to liver cancer and liver failure. Cirrhosis caused by chronic hepatitis C is the leading reason for liver transplants in the U.S.
While there is no cure for hepatitis C, the virus can be suppressed in the majority of patients. Suppression therapy is most effective in young, healthy patients and when the disease is diagnosed in its early stages. Suppression therapy is not as effective in patients who smoke, drink regularly, abuse alcohol or drugs, or suffer from diabetes.
Suppression therapy can have debilitating side effects. These side effects include, fatigue, insomnia, fever, nausea, vomiting, anemia, depression, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty with memory.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) under the official listing for liver disease, you must be diagnosed with both hepatitis C and chronic liver disease. You must have had a complication such as internal bleeding, fluid in the pleural cavity or peritoneal cavity, hepatopulmonary syndrome, or hepatorenal syndrome. You will also have to show that the disease has damaged your liver.
If you don't meet the requirements of the liver disease listing, you may still qualify for SSDI for your Hepatitis C. You will need to demonstrate that your symptoms or the side effects of the medication affect your ability to work for pay. Your doctor will need to provide a detailed description of your limitations. The Social Security Administration will review your case and assign a residual functional capacity (RFC).
Suppose your medication causes severe anemia, fatigue, and nausea. Your doctor says that you can only stand or sit for four hours a day. You may be assigned an RFC that limits you to sedentary work. If your medication makes it difficult to concentrate, your RFC may limit you to unskilled employment. The Social Security Administration will look at your overall disability, your job skills, your education level, and your age and make a disability determination.
If you are denied SSDI, don’t give up. Many qualified applicants are denied the first time they apply. Our Massachusetts SSDI advocates can help. Request your free copy of Boston disability attorney John Keefe’s book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.