Systematic lupus erythematosus, more commonly referred to just as “lupus,” is an autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the human body. The disease affects approximately 5 million people across the world. Severe cases of lupus can be, at best, disabling and, at worst, fatal.
Lupus is a disabling condition that has its own listing in Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book. You can qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits by either meeting the Blue Book listing or by proving that your residual functional capacity (RFC) makes working impossible due to your mental, physical, and sensory limitations.
Since lupus can affect the entire body, the symptoms are numerous and too wide-ranging to list here. Some of the most common symptoms include: headaches; extreme fatigue; swelling; fever; anemia; pleurisy (chest pain when breathing deeply); painful or swollen joints; abnormal blood clotting; hair loss; and sun or light sensitivity.
You need more than a diagnosis of lupus from your doctor to qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits on the basis of your lupus. To meet SSA’s Blue Book listing for lupus, your lupus must involve at least two or more organs or body symptoms, and it must include at least two major signs and symptoms. The major signs and symptoms include: malaise (feelings of physical discomfort or illness that results in low physical or mental activity); fever; involuntary weight loss; and frequent exhaustion that results in low physical or mental activity.
If your lupus symptoms come and go but occur repeatedly, your disease will qualify as a disability when it causes the following limitations: 1) limitation of social functioning; 2) limitation of daily living activities; and 3) limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner because of problems with pace, concentration, or persistence. These limitations must seriously interfere with your ability to function appropriately, effectively, and independently.
Unfortunately, many lupus symptoms are difficult to observe, especially since they can affect any area of your body and not all at the same time or for the same duration of time. There are eleven criteria used to diagnose lupus, and an individual must meet four of them to receive a lupus diagnosis: 1) oral ulcers; 2) discoid rash; 3) malar rash; 4) photosensitivity; 5) serositis; 6) arthritis; 7) hematologic disorder; 8) neurologic disorder; 9) immunologic disorder; 10) antinuclear antibody; and 11) renal disorder.
The medical evidence needed to prove the diagnosis and severity of your lupus can include doctors’ notes, blood tests, and electrocardiography, but the evidence required will vary by the part of your body that is affected and the symptoms that you experience.
Remember that, since lupus is an autoimmune disease, your immune system is also compromised, which puts you at greater risk for developing infections and other complications. If you have received a lupus diagnosis from your doctor and think you may qualify for disability benefits through SSA, consult an experienced disability attorney who can guide you through the entire claims process.