Do disability benefits apply to invisible illnesses?

Invisible illnesses affect many people in the U.S. and can cause significant impairment. It is possible that some may qualify for disability benefits.

When it comes to the different types of conditions that may qualify for Social Security disability benefits, some seem cut-and-dry, while others may be more ambiguous. For example, almost nobody would question a person being eligible for benefits who has had cerebral palsy since birth and is confined to a wheelchair. However, some might challenge a seemingly able-bodied person who is parked in a handicapped spot and has a disabled sticker on his or her vehicle. Many Minnesota residents with invisible illnesses, however, are well aware of the special challenges they present.

What is an invisible illness or condition? This type of impairment pertains to a condition that others are not able to easily see, yet it can cause the sufferer significant physical or emotional pain. Many types of unseen disorders cause physical disabilities that occasionally require the use of a wheelchair or a handicapped sticker, despite little outward evidence of a disability. Others may cause debilitating emotional or mental challenges. In order to qualify for disability benefits, an invisible illness must be long-term or expected to last throughout a sufferer's life, as well as result in impairment that is significant enough to impact the person's daily life and prevent employment.

Invisible illnesses are far from rare. Disabled World reports that up to 10 percent of Americans suffer from some kind of unseen disorder. These conditions come with their own unique set of challenges. Family members and friends may think that the sufferer is making it up or that their pain is not as bad as they say. Employers might not understand or be willing to make accommodations for a condition they cannot see. Doctors, therapists and other medical professionals might have difficulty diagnosing or treating an invisible illness and may even suggest that it is all in the sufferer's head.

Common invisible illnesses

The U.S. Social Security Administration accepts numerous types of unseen disorders for consideration of disability benefits. These may include the following:

  • Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic panic attacks, anxiety and depression
  • Lyme disease
  • Unseen muscular or skeletal conditions
  • Long-term complications from a traumatic brain injury

It is important for those who are seeking disability benefits for an invisible illness to have as much evidence supporting their claim as possible. These may include doctor's examinations, therapist's reports, information on past injuries and conditions, statements from those close to the sufferer and anything else that may support the claim of an ongoing condition. It is often necessary to appeal the denial of a disability claim involving an unseen illness. The application and appeal processes may be complex, and an experienced Coon Rapids disability attorney may be able to help applicants through each step.