By Deanna Power
Director of Outreach, Disability Benefits Help
Email: [email protected]
Vasculitis comes in a variety of forms and severities. While some people with the disorder experience mild, manageable symptoms, others with widespread or severe vasculitis may find it hard to work or complete daily tasks.
If your vasculitis prevents you from working, then Social Security disability benefits may be an option. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial resources for people who are unable to earn income.
Programs Available: SSDI and SSI
Before beginning your application, it is important to know which disability benefits program may be best for you. Depending on your work history, current income, and age, you may qualify for one (or both) of the following programs.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for people with work history. This program is typically reserved for people over 18 who have worked regularly, but are no longer able to because of their disability’s severe symptoms.
To qualify, the SSA must see that you have contributed enough “work credits” (taxes paid through work) in comparison to your age. For example, a 38-year-old applicant needs 20 credits (5 years of work) in order to qualify, while a 58-year-old applicant needs 36 credits (9 years of work) to qualify. SSDI recipients get monthly benefits in proportion to the amount they made in their working years, as well as Medicare coverage.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for people without a work history, who are unemployed, or who are under 18. To qualify here, applicants must make below a certain amount of money each month to show severe financial need. Individual applicants can earn up to $735/month and still qualify, while couples can earn up to $1,103/month. However, in an effort to encourage continued work, only half of all income earned through jobs is counted towards these totals, meaning many SSI recipients make more than these amounts and still qualify. Applicants under 18 are instead evaluated by the income of their parents or guardians.
If you are unsure whether or not you qualify for a program, you can consult the SSA’s website or speak with an official at your local Social Security office.
Regardless of whether you’re applying for SSI or SSDI, the SSA can only provide benefits to applicants who demonstrate “total and permanent disability”. This phrase describes any person whose condition is a) severe enough to prevent them from performing normal tasks safely, and b) is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death. When an SSA reviewer looks over an application, they evaluate these factors by consulting the “Blue Book” — a collection of all SSA-approved disorders.
To see if your vasculitis may qualify, we must consult Section 14.00 of the Blue Book: “Immune Disorders.” Here, it states that applicants with vasculitis can qualify if:
Your vasculitis affects two or more organs/body systems, with one body system being affected to at least a moderate degree, as well as at least two of the constitutional signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss)
repeated manifestations of systemic vasculitis, with at least two of the typical symptoms (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss) as well as at least one the following: limitations of daily living, limitations of social functioning, or limitations in completing tasks in a timely manner due to problems with pace, persistence, or concentration.
For example, you might be able to qualify if the fatigue from your vasculitis keeps you from working (you’re too tired to drive, unable to take public transportation, stairs become a challenge, etc.)
Because these qualifications can be subjective, it is important to provide as much medical evidence as possible when applying. For vasculitis, tests like tissue biopsies, angiography tests, MRIs, CT scans, and general blood work are most beneficial in demonstrating symptoms. Hospitalization history, medication lists, therapy session notes, or physician’s notes can also have a large impact on the SSA’s decision. In general, the more evidence you provide on your application, the more likely you will medically qualify for benefits.
Starting the Social Security Application
SSDI applications can be found online on the SSA’s website (https://www.ssa.gov/). Here, you can also find helpful tips and FAQs to assist you through the process. You can also contact your local Social Security office to ask questions or schedule an appointment for an in-person application session.
SSI applications can only be filled out in-person at your local Social Security office. However, online resources (such as income calculators, information pages, and necessary document lists) are also available to help you prepare and expedite the in-person application. Applicants under 18 will also need to fill out official documentation on the SSA’s website to allow their physicians to forward medical history for their application.
The average applicant is approved in around five months.