Your immune system is supposed to protect your body from microscopic threats such as cancer, viruses, and bacteria. When you suffer from an immune system disorder, your immune system either doesn’t function well enough to protect you from these threats, or it mistakenly begins attacking your healthy tissues.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system attacks your body. It causes inflammation in the tissues it attacks. To qualify for disability, your lupus must attack at least two body systems or organs with one at least “moderately” involved and two symptoms such as:
- Involuntary weight loss
Or repeated manifestations with at least two of the above symptoms that contribute to limitations of daily living, social functioning, or performing work duties.
Systemic vasculitis is when you have multiple inflammations of the blood vessels because your immune system is attacking them. You have to document the inflammation with angiography or biopsy, although SSA will not pay for the test. Symptoms are similar to lupus.
Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma)
Systemic sclerosis is when you experience skin thickening, often on the surface, but also on internal organs and muscles, that can lead to pain or dysfunction. It can be qualified in the same way as lupus or with contracture of fingers or toes, atrophy with irreversible damage to lower extremities making it hard for you to walk, or atrophy with irreversible damage in the upper limbs, making it hard for you to perform manual tasks. It may be qualified with gangrene or blood clots with ulceration in fingers or toes, resulting in the inability to move or perform fine and gross movements.
Polymyositis and Dermamyositis
These two disorders occur when your immune system attacks your muscles, causing pain and tenderness in your muscles. It is considered disabling when it occurs with symptoms similar to lupus, or affects muscles such as:
- Shoulder or pelvis weakness affecting walking or fine and gross motor movements
- Swallowing muscles, leading to aspiration
- Diaphragm, leading to impaired breathing
- Calcination of joints or impaired intestinal motility
Undifferentiated and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease
This is a generic category for autoimmune disorders that do not fall into any of the categories above. Disability is determined when symptoms approximate those listed for lupus above.
Immune Deficiency Disorders, Excluding HIV Infection
Immune deficiency is when your immune system is not effective at fighting off threats to your body. This is considered disabling if you have any of the following infections three or more times in a year that require hospitalization or resist treatment:
- Septic arthritis
You may also be considered disabled if you have a stem cell transplant, or repeated manifestations of your immune deficiency disorder that limit your daily activity, social functioning, or ability maintain a job.
When a person is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus attacks the immune system, exposing the body to an elevated infection risk. It is considered disabling when you experience certain:
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infections
- Protozoan infections
- Viral infections
- Skin lesions or mucous membranes
- HIV encephalopathy—cognitive or motor dysfunction associated with HIV
- HIV wasting syndrome—involuntary weight loss
- Treatment-resistant diarrhea lasting one month or longer and requiring medical intervention
- Any of the infections listed under Immune deficiency above, with the same frequency and severity.
- Repeated manifestations of HIV that interfere with daily living, social function, or your ability to maintain a job.
Inflammatory arthritis is many diseases in which cause inflammation of your joints that can impair your movement. You may experience pain in your joints and you may experience many different nonspecific constitutional symptoms, which affect your entire body. A disability ruling for inflammatory arthritis may be made for specific combinations of:
- Inability to walk
- Loss of fine and gross motor skill in upper extremities
- Inflammation or deformity in one or more major peripheral joints
- Involvement of two or more organs (at least one moderately involved)
- Ankylosis (fixation) of the spine in certain places
- Repeated manifestations of symptoms similar to lupus
Sjögren’s syndrome is a disorder of the exocrine glands, such as the tear glands and salivary glands, caused by immune system disorders. It often results in dry eyes and dry mouth, causing corneal damage, difficulty swallowing, dental cavities, and a persistent dry cough. To be considered disabled, you have to have involvement of two or more organs or systems (one at least moderate involvement), plus two or more of fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss. Or you may be considered disabled if you get repeated episodes of Sjögren’s syndrome that interfere with your daily living, social functioning, or work activities.
If you have been diagnosed with an immune system disorder that you think might qualify you for disability benefits, please contact us for a free eligibility evaluation.
Common disabling injuries • Common illnesses that can be disabling • Musculoskeletal System Disorders • Special Senses and Speech Disorders • Respiratory System Disorders • Cardiovascular System Disorders • Digestive System Disorders • Genitourinary System Disorders • Hematological Disorders • Skin Disorders • Endocrine Disorders • Neurological Disorders • Mental Disorders • Malignant Neoplastic Diseases