The Social Security Administration classifies Crohn’s disease as a disability. A person with Crohn’s disease may be able to claim Social Security disability benefits if their condition means they cannot work.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and discomfort in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is part of a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

Crohn’s can cause problems anywhere along the GI tract from the mouth to the anus. It commonly causes problems at the end of the small bowel, called the ileum, and the beginning of the colon.

Symptoms of Crohn’s can make working difficult or impossible, making it necessary for a person to apply for disability benefits.

A person who qualifies as disabled may be eligible to receive either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), depending on their financial situation, their work history, and Social Security tax payments.

SSDI benefits are available to anyone who is “insured” according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). This means that they have worked long enough, recently enough, and have paid sufficient Social Security taxes on the money they earned.

SSI benefits are available to anyone who is over 65 years old, blind, or disabled, and who has limited income or resources.

This article will examine when Crohn’s disease meets the requirements for a disability, what government disability benefits are available, and how to apply for them.

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When an individual is unable to work due to a disability, the money they receive from government disability payments may represent a substantial percentage of their income.

Disability payments are not high. According to the SSA, in 2019 the average SSDI payment was $1,234 per month.

If their disability is their only source of income, an individual would earn $14,808 per year in federal SSDI benefits. That is just a little over the 2018 federal poverty level of $12,880.

Crohn’s disease is a disability because it falls within the scope of inflammatory bowel diseases. IBDs are on the list of conditions that the SSA considers disabilities.

The SSA notes that Crohn’s disease is usually not curable and can affect any portion of the GI tract in a variable pattern. It may also reoccur chronically, even after surgery.

Can you work with Crohn’s?

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can impact any part of the digestive tract and can vary with each reoccurrence. They can include:

  • continual diarrhea
  • bloody stool
  • urgent need to move bowels
  • abdominal cramping
  • pain in GI tract
  • feeling of incomplete bowel evacuation
  • constipation

Some symptoms can also be systemic, leading to issues throughout the body. These include:

  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • mouth sores
  • low appetite
  • swollen, painful joints
  • skin complications
  • redness or pain in eyes, or vision changes
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • loss of menstruation
  • delayed growth for children

Symptoms can make working difficult or impossible, depending on the severity and frequency with which they occur.

In the U.S., the government classifies Crohn’s disease as a disability. This means individuals with Crohn’s may also be able to receive disability benefits from the SSA.

In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects workers’ rights. That means that an employee with the condition has the right to ask their employer for reasonable accommodations to meet the needs that allow them to do their job.

Similar laws in the U.K., Canada, and Australia protect workers and provide disability benefits of some type to people with Crohn’s disease.

In Ireland, Crohn’s disease does not appear on the list of disabilities covered by its Long Term Illness Scheme, which covers the costs of drugs, medication, and medical or surgical appliances.

Crohn’s disease is described in the SSA’s Guide to Disability Evaluation under Section 5.00 – Adult.

Under the ADA, digestion is considered a major life activity, and people who have problems with digestion are protected from discrimination in the workplace.

This means that an employee can ask for reasonable accommodations like:

  • enough time for regular restroom breaks
  • a desk closer to the restroom
  • unpaid time off for doctor’s appointments or flare-ups
  • telecommuting or a flexible work schedule
  • an assignment to a different position in the company if the present one is unsustainable

Does Crohn’s qualify for long-term disability?

It is the goal of the SSA to see individuals return to work. If an individual’s Crohn’s disease is severe enough, however, this may not be possible. In this case, the SSA may approve an individual for long-term disability.

The SSA may require regular documentation of ongoing issues related to Crohn’s disease to continue long-term disability payments. This may include a doctor’s notes, scans, or other medical tests on a regular basis to prove that problems are persistent.

Individuals with Crohn’s disease are eligible for the same disability benefits as anyone else with a disability. This includes monetary compensation but may also include other benefits like disabled parking and a tax credit.

Disabled parking

A blue placard that hangs from a rear-view mirror indicates that a car is eligible to park in a disabled parking space. These tags are available to anyone disabled. According to the SSA’s definition, a person is disabled if:

  • an individual cannot do work that they did before due to a medical condition
  • an individual cannot adjust to other work due to their medical condition
  • an individual’s disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death

State departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) administer parking tags. To apply for a tag an individual should contact their local DMV to find out the requirements, such as an application or doctor’s affidavit.

Disability tax credit

While there is no specific disability tax credit, there is an earned income tax credit (EITC) that may be helpful to disabled individuals.

The EITC is for people who earn low-to-moderate incomes, including those whose primary income source comes from disability payments. The credit can lower the amount of tax owed, or even lead to a tax refund.

To view eligibility for the EITC, see IRS Publication 596, What’s New for 2020?

Complications from Crohn’s disease can make work difficult or impossible. In this case, reaching out to the SSA to discuss disability benefits resources may be the best option.

Individuals can check with their state government office to determine any disability benefits they may be able to apply for. Some states have state disability programs that provide additional income or benefits.

Filing for social security disability

To apply for federal government disability benefits through the SSA, a person can visit the SSA website, apply by phone, or apply in person at a local office. They will need:

  • proof of diagnosis such as imaging, tests, endoscopy results, or notes from their doctor
  • laboratory tests done within the past year
  • prescription medications taken for Crohn’s
  • information about doctors they have consulted
  • W-2 forms from the previous year
  • proof of citizenship
  • financial records, bank statements, pay stubs, insurance paperwork, and rent or mortgage paperwork

A person will receive a response through the mail with the SSA’s decision. Individuals have the right to appeal a decision within 60 days, in writing.

Crohn’s disease is an often debilitating condition of the GI tract that can severely limit an individual’s ability to maintain a consistent work schedule. Due to this, they may qualify for disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration administers disability payments that disburse benefits on a monthly basis. They are modest amounts, and may be the only income for someone who cannot otherwise work due to Crohn’s.

In addition to monetary payments, people with Crohn’s may also qualify for additional benefits like disabled parking and the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.

To learn more about disability benefits or to apply, visit the SSA’s website.