Slepian Smith, PLLC

Crohn’s disease: What is it and how can it be disabling?

If you have ever known anyone with Crohn’s disease, you may have seen them withdraw from social activities and deal with severe pain. Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that manifests in various areas of the digestive tract, often causing severe diarrhea, malnutrition, abdominal pain, fever, mouth sores, fatigue and weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. Inflammation may spread to the liver, bile ducts, joints, eyes or skin.

Crohn’s can result in other serious impairments like ulcers, bowel obstruction, anemia, osteoporosis, gallbladder disease, arthritis and even colon cancer.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Mayo reports that Crohn’s disease can be debilitating and even fatal, but that sometimes treatment helps to improve daily functioning. Anyone who applies for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, SSDI or SSI respectively, should submit extensive medical and other evidence of symptoms and their impact on activities of daily living and on work duties.

Since many symptoms of Crohn’s, like fatigue and pain, are subjective, it can be helpful to submit statements from family and friends that describe their observations of the claimant’s symptoms. For example, does the claimant often fall asleep or take extensive naps? Do they wince, double over or cry from pain? Does diarrhea keep them in the bathroom for long periods of time?

This type of evidence is relevant not only to the person’s daily activities, but also to the ability to work.

How the Social Security Administration analyzes Crohn’s disease

The SSA will look at whether a claimant with Crohn’s disease meets the “listing” for inflammatory bowel disease. The agency has compiled a list of medical conditions that are so severe that if certain criteria are met, the claimant is automatically found to be disabled. Listing 5.06 describes how a claimant would meet the listing, which must be documented by objective testing like biopsy, imaging, endoscopy or surgical findings.

Should the claimant not meet or equal the listing, the SSA will then evaluate whether the claimant could return to past work or whether there are substantial numbers of jobs in the national economy the claimant could perform after considering the claimant’s age, education, skills and physical or mental limits from their Crohn’s and other impairments.

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