Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic and debilitating skin condition characterized by sores and lumps that form on the buttocks, under the armpits, and on the groin.
Healthcare professionals are not sure about what causes HS. However, research points to a combination of sweat and keratin that clogs hair follicles. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this leads to bacteria that breed in the hair follicle, which may result in painful and swollen abscesses.
Despite numerous scientific studies that shed new light on treating and managing HS, there is currently no cure.
About 1–4% of the global population lives with this condition. Many people with HS experience a reduced quality of life and may have difficulty performing work-related tasks.
The pain, possible embarrassment, and other symptoms of HS can make seeking and keeping employment challenging. So, when a person with HS can no longer work, applying for and receiving Social Security disability benefits could be a good next step.
Having to leave a job because of a health condition can be emotionally and financially challenging. However, receiving disability benefits can help with basic living expenses such as food and rent.
There are two types of federal disability programs available in the United States: Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To qualify for either of these programs, a person must have a disability or health condition that affects their ability to work.
Although the programs are similar, there are a couple of key distinctions. Eligibility for SSDI is based on disability and work credits, which are calculated based on total yearly wages or self-employment income. SSI eligibility is based on age or disability and proof of limited income and resources.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers several factors when determining a person’s eligibility for SSDI. These are a person’s ability to perform tasks and their engagement in job hunting.
Regarding the former, individuals cannot perform specific tasks such as standing, lifting, sitting, walking, and memory-focused projects for at least 12 months. Regarding the latter, applicants must be unable to perform any form of sustainable work.
It is also important to mention that applicants cannot qualify for SSDI benefits if they can perform work-related tasks at or before the date of application.
SSDI provides benefits to individuals previously employed for a certain amount of time. In contrast, SSI provides aid to those who have not worked for the required time period and have limited funds or no income.
Both programs offer back payments. Under the SSDI program, back payments start if an individual has had a disability for at least a year. Under the SSI program, individuals must have had a disability before the approval process.
Individuals who apply and receive approval for both programs are also eligible for Medicare. For SSDI, the applicant must wait about 2 years before their Medicare benefits begin. For SSI, eligibility for receiving Medicare is possible once the applicant begins receiving benefits.
Individuals receiving disability benefits must also be aware of the cap on assets. Purchases of over $2,000, or $3,000 for couples, are not eligible to collect benefits.
Here is a list of what the SSA considers assets.
It is possible to receive both SSDI and SSI if an individual has a work history and extremely limited funds.
The SSA has a checklist of information that applicants must present during the application process.
To summarize that list, applicants must provide the following basic information:
- their full legal name
- their date of birth
- their Social Security number
- their bank account information
Some other required documents include:
- the person’s birth certificate
- W-2 or other tax forms from the previous year
- any medical records about their condition that they currently have in their possession
- their Social Security card
- their proof of citizenship
- proof of any workers’ compensation they have received
They should also provide any medical evidence concerning HS, such as:
- the name and contact information of any doctors or dermatologists who can speak about their condition
- a complete list of all medications, medical treatments, and tests for treating and managing HS
- a detailed description of how HS impacts their daily life, including their ability to complete tasks such as cooking and cleaning
People should also provide their complete work experience and employment history, including information such as:
- their total earnings from the previous year
- records of both current and past employment, going back 15 years
- information on receipt of or intention to obtain any form of workers’ compensation
- information on any military service
Applying and being approved for disability benefits can be intimidating and frustrating. The processing time for SSDI or SSI applications is about 3–5 months.
Payments usually begin after a 5-month waiting period, with the first payment showing up in the 6th month. Also, payments last as long as HS persists and prevents an individual from working.
Payment amounts vary according to the type of benefits a person receives and their work history.
The average monthly benefit is $1,128 for SSDI and $577 for SSI. The maximum payments for single individuals and married couples are $794 and $1,191, respectively, based on income. For SSDI, the maximum monthly payment is $3,148, and this is based on work history.
Not all applications for disability benefits are approved the first time around. Between 2008 and 2017, the approval rate for disability benefits hovered at approximately 22% for the first attempt.
If an application is not approved, an individual can start an appeal reconsideration. During an appeal reconsideration, unapproved cases are evaluated for a second time by someone not involved in the first application review.
The second step is a hearing by an administrative law judge who is an expert in disability laws.
If an application is denied again after taking the above steps, the Appeals Council presents another avenue toward getting a positive outcome.
About 8% of SSDI claims filed between 2008 and 2017 were successfully appealed during hearings before the Appeals Council.
If a plea to the Appeals Council is unsuccessful, the only remaining avenue is a federal court hearing.
Applying for disability benefits can be frustrating, time consuming, and costly. However, preparing thoroughly and knowing what to expect goes a long way toward making the process a lot easier.