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Applying for Social Security Disability with Lupus

Elizabeth Savage

August 2014

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack healthy tissues. It can affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other body parts, but is hard to diagnose because it mimics many other diseases. The disease is often marked by joint pain — often developing into arthritis and other autoimmune diseases — a distinctive facial rash, chronic fatigue, and headaches and brain fog.

Lupus appears to be largely a genetic condition, but can be triggered by things like stress, sunlight and certain types of medication. Nine times out of ten, women are more commonly affected than men and minority women more than Caucasian women. The condition can lead to complications in the affected areas, as well as increased risk of infections. There is no cure, but treating lupus can be expensive. Depending on your particular case, you may also have difficulty working due to the wide range of symptomatic complications associated with the disease. Consider applying for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help offset these costs.

For more information on the Lupus Foundation of Southern California (LFSC), visit: 

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The Disability Programs

If your lupus case keeps you from earning a living, you may qualify for either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSDI is a benefits service for working adults and their families. In order to be eligible for SSDI, you must have paid Social Security taxes out of your paycheck for a number of years. You will need to present a substantial work history in order to demonstrate this. SSI takes into consideration income limitations rather than employment history. To qualify for SSI, you must meet strict low-income criteria based on an assessment of your resources and other finances.

For more information on the disability programs, visit:

Medically Qualifying for Benefits

The SSA uses a guidebook of technical medical listings to determine eligibility for benefits. This guidebook, called the blue book, is published online and is divided into separate sections for adults and children. All applicants will need to meet a listing or match one in severity in order to qualify for benefits.

Lupus is found in section 14.02 of Immune Disorders. There are two ways to meet this listing:

· There is demonstrated involvement of two or more organs/body systems, with one of the parts involved to at least a moderate level of severity and at least two of the constitutional symptoms. These could be fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss.

· There is evidence of repeated manifestations of systematic lupus erythematosus, with at least two of the constitutional symptoms and one of the following at the marked level:

 Limitation of activities of daily living.

 Limitation in maintaining social functioning.

 Limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace.

For more information on medically qualifying for benefits with Lupus, visit:

The Application Process

The application for Social Security disability benefits can be completed online or in person. Before you begin the application, gather all medical documentation relevant to your lupus case. This includes record of medical treatments, lab results, and doctor's notes. You should also prepare all the information required by the program for which you are applying. If you're applying for SSDI, you will need a record of employment, demonstrating that you have paid into the Social Security pool. If you are applying for SSI, you will need financial information to demonstrate you meet the financial limits.

You can expect to wait around three to four months for a decision, but some applications can take a year or longer to process. In the event your application is denied, you may choose to appeal the decision. The appeal can be initiated online and must be begun within 60 days. Applying for Social Security Disability benefits with lupus is fairly straightforward since it has its own blue book listing, but the process may still be confusing and there are many requirements you must make sure you meet. Staying organized and treating the application process like a job may help you in the end. Those with lupus may find that these benefits can help them manage their symptoms and afford necessities, allowing them to live a very normal life.