The Social Security Administration considers lupus a legal disability. It is a chronic, autoimmune disease affecting various body parts, including joints, skin, lungs, and kidneys.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a disability is a condition that limits basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, walking, sitting, or remembering — for at least 12 months.
Lupus is a long-term chronic, autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue. Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States have a form of lupus. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, although research associates factors such as stress and hormones as triggers.
Lupus can cause various symptoms,
Lupus is on the disability conditions list under the SSA, thus qualifying a person with the condition for disability benefits if their experience meets several requirements. These include whether the:
- lupus causes a limitation of daily activities
- condition affects two or more major organs or organ systems
- individual has at least two or more major symptoms, such as severe fatigue, fever, or involuntary weight loss
More generally, the SSA will consider an individual for disability benefits if their experience meets one or more of the following requirements:
- The person is unable to continue in past work.
- The individual is unable to adjust to other work.
- The person’s condition will last at least a year or more.
Many individuals with lupus can continue working, although they may make adjustments to their work environment, such as flexible work hours and working from home.
Other adjustments an individual with lupus may make include:
- modifying workstations to relieve physical stress factors
- shielding from bright lights and windows
- having an area for rest
- scheduling rest periods
- avoiding physically demanding tasks
Working with a disability is possible, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990 protects those with a disability from discrimination. Since lupus is a disability, according to the SSA, the law requires employers to make suitable accommodations to enable a person with disabilities to perform their job.
The SSA considers an individual to have a qualifying disability if all of the following apply:
- The person previously worked in jobs covered by Social Security.
- The individual has a medical condition that meets Social Security’s strict definition of disability.
- The person cannot work and engage in a substantial gainful activity (SGA).
- The individual cannot do the work they did previously or adjust to other work.
- The person expects the condition to last for at least 1 year or result in death.
For the SSA to decide whether a person qualifies for disability benefits, they use a step-by-step process, which involves asking five questions:
- Are you working? The SSA uses an earnings guideline to evaluate whether work activity is SGA.
- Is your condition severe? A condition is severe if it significantly limits the ability to do basic work-related activities, such as lifting, standing, or remembering, for at least 12 months.
- Is your condition on the list of disabling conditions? The SSA maintains a list of disabling conditions for each major body system. Lupus is on this list as an immune system disorder.
- Can you do the work you did previously? At this stage, the SSA will decide whether medical impairment(s) prevents a person from performing any past work.
- Can you do any other type of work? The SSA will assess what work a person can do despite any medical impairment(s).
A person may apply for disability benefits online via the SSA website or by calling their toll-free number, 800-772-1213, during working hours.
The information and documentation that a person will need to provide include:
- information such as date of birth and Social Security number
- condition information, such as current medications and past tests
- work information, such as earnings
- birth certificate or another proof of birth
- proof of U.S. citizenship
A person can also find a disability starter kit on the website, which can help prepare for the interview and navigate the application process.
Helpful resources regarding information about lupus include:
- Lupus Foundation of America
- Lupus Research Alliance
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Autoimmune Association
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease
Helpful resources regarding disability support include:
Lupus is a long-term, autoimmune disease affecting major organs and body systems. Symptoms can affect day-to-day life and make usual activities more difficult. Lupus is on the list of disabilities under the SSA, so those with the condition may qualify for disability benefits if their experiences meet the requirements.