How to Apply for Disability Benefits When You Have IBD

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Sometimes things like diet changes and medications aren’t enough to successfully combat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), preventing you from working. If you’ve exhausted your treatment options, and your disease isn’t improving, you might consider applying for Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits. While this can be a difficult process, taking advantage of these benefits may help you take better care of yourself.

Here we will walk you through the steps to apply for disability.


Determine whether you meet the criteria

Before you decide to apply for disability benefits, make sure you meet the criteria listed in the Blue Book that SSA uses to determine if you can receive benefits. Ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease are evaluated under Listing 5.06 - Inflammatory bowel disease in the Blue Book. You qualify to receive disability benefits if you have IBD and an additional complication like a bowel obstruction or fistula.


Determine how you want to apply

You can apply for SSA disability benefits online or in person at your local SSA office. For most people with IBD, applying online is easiest. Before you apply online, make sure you meet the following requirements:

  • You’re at least 18.
  • You’re not receiving benefits on your own Social Security record.
  • You’re unable to work because of your IBD.
  • You haven’t been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days.

If you don’t meet these requirements, apply in person.


Gather personal information

The SSA recommends filling out an application first, but it helps to gather the materials you need to submit before you start to save time during the process.

You must provide:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Social Security number (SSN)
  • Name, date and place of birth, and SSN for your current spouse or any former spouses, and date of marriage and/or divorce
  • The name and date of birth of your children if they’re under 18
  • Your Routing Transit Number and bank account number for electronic deposit


Gather information about your IBD

You must also provide information about your IBD, including:

  • Name, address, and phone number of your gastroenterologist
  • Name, address, phone number, patient ID number, and treatment dates for all doctor’s appointments and hospital visits
  • Name of all medicine you take and who prescribed them
  • Name and date of all medical tests (i.e., colonoscopies, endoscopies) you’ve had and who ordered them

Record this information in a spreadsheet for quick access so you can copy it into your application.


Gather information about your work

If you’re currently employed and not yet receiving disability benefits, you must provide information about your work experience. Use your tax returns to help you provide the following:

  • The amount of money you earned over the last two years
  • The name and address of your employers from the last two years
  • The start and end dates of any military service
  • A list of all jobs you had in the previous 15 years before you got sick
  • Information about any workers’ compensation you received


Gather other documents

In addition to compiling all your information, you might be asked to send more official documents to SSA, such as:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status
  • Military discharge papers
  • W-2 forms
  • Any medical records currently in your possession
  • Pay stubs or settlements with proof of workers’ compensation, if you received it

If you don’t have all these documents, the SSA can help you gather them once you start the application process.


Fill out the application

Once you gather your information and decide how you want to apply, you can begin the application process. If you have chosen to apply online, you can do so on the SSA's website. When you’re filling it out, answer all the questions as best you can. You don’t have to complete your application in one sitting.


Sign a medical release form

When your application is finished, SSA requires you to sign a medical release form so they can get the necessary information from your doctors. You can complete this part of the process electronically, or you can print and sign the form, and then mail it to your local Social Security office.


Consider an attorney

Applying for disability isn’t an easy task. One thing that can help you is to seek an attorney to represent you through the process. They can help push your case forward and attend any interviews with you.

You also might not fit the Blue Book listing 100 percent. That’s OK — you can still apply for disability. An attorney is an even greater asset in this case to help prove your disability and advocate for you.


Don’t let the stigma define you

Applying for disability is a big step, but if you can’t work because of IBD, you shouldn’t hesitate to apply. These benefits are made for you to take advantage of and help ease the stress you experience if you’re trying to maintain a job and a disease full time.

Don’t feel like a failure if you decide you need disability benefits, and don’t let the stigma of your IBD define you. Taking this step can help you worry less about your health and financial obligations. Remember how strong you are.