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Disability Benefits for Crohn's Disease

Social Security Disability Lawyers: OC, Riverside & San Bernardino

Crohn's Disease

What is Crohn's Disease?

Burrill Bernard Crohn was an American gastroenterologist who in 1932 first identified the inflammatory bowel disease (Chron's Disease) that now bears his name. It is also sometimes called “Regional Enteritis.” It is estimated that 3 million Americans suffer from Crohn's.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Crohn's are abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be severe), weight loss, anemia, and chronic fatigue. Other symptoms may include rectal bleeding, loss of appetite, fever, nausea, inflammation of the eyes (iritis), inflammatory arthritis, back pain and stiffness, erythema nodosum and pyoderma gangrenosum skin lesions, and abdominal cramps.

Crohn's Disease can cause inflammation throughout the entire GI tract. This is unlike ulcerative colitis, which affects only the colon. Also, in contrast to ulcerative colitis (which affects the inner lining or “mucosa” of the colon), Crohn's affects the entire thickness of the intestinal wall. It can have “skip” lesions, where some parts of the intestines look normal and others are inflamed.

The most common presentation of Crohn's is “ileocolitis,” where the inflammation is localized to the terminal part of the ileum (small bowel) and to the proximal portion of the large intestine (colon).

Complications can include bowel obstruction, perforation, abscess formation, and fistulas. There is also an increased risk of colon cancer.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of Crohn's Disease is usually made by endoscopy and colonoscopy. A biopsy at the time of these procedures helps to confirm the diagnosis of Crohn's and to distinguish it from other inflammatory bowel disorders, such as ulcerative colitis and Behcet's disease.

Causation

The cause is not known and there is no cure. What we know is that Crohn's Disease is an inflammatory bowel disorder (“IBD”) where the immune system reacts to pathogens (bacteria, viruses) in the gastrointestinal tract (small intestine and the colon) that causes a chronic inflammatory reaction.

There is also a genetic component to Crohn's in that if you have a parent or a sibling with Crohn's Disease, then you have about a 20% increased risk of developing Crohn's yourself.

Crohn's Disease often begins in young adults between the ages of 20 and 30 years. But it can occur at any age, even in children.

Treatment

Corticosteroids may be used for short courses to help settle down a severe flare, but they are not recommended for long term use or maintenance because of side effects. Immunosuppressive and “biologic” medications are often required for long term management. They include azathioprine (Imuran), 6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate, infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab, vedolizumab, ustekinumab, and natalizumab.

Disability Benefits for Crohn's

Benefits for Crohn's Disease under the Social Security Disability program (SSDI) are listed in the “Blue Book” at Section 5.06, Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Whether you qualify for long-term disability (LTD) benefits under SSDI and/or under a group disability plan through your employer (ERISA) will depend on your symptoms and the medical documentation from your doctors.

That medical documentation should include the diagnosis of Crohn's Disease, the symptoms that you are experiencing, and what effect those symptoms have on your exertional functional capability. The documentation must be detailed and specific. It's not enough for your doctor to write in your medical records that you are “disabled from any gainful employment.” That statement is what is often called “conclusory,” meaning that it is a conclusion and not an adequate explanation of why you are disabled.

Your chances of getting LTD benefits will be enhanced by working with an experienced disability attorney who can work with your doctor(s) to properly document your disabling condition. At Law Med, we are experienced and knowledgeable with SSDI and ERISA claims, and we know how to present the legal and medical issues that are tailored to your case.

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