Symptoms associated with eczema — itchy skin lesions, blisters, dermatitis, and flare-ups — can prevent people with the condition from maintaining their jobs.
“My skin has flared again. I have lumps on my hands. Some are weeping and the rest of my hands are scaly. I am off work and cannot return until this condition is managed, as I have to use my hands all day to perform my role,” wrote a MyEczemaTeam member.
However, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) does not specifically list the condition as a recognized disability among its Listing of Impairments, used to determine who qualifies for Social Security disability benefits.
“Atopic dermatitis should be a disability. Psoriasis is, and it's not a bit worse,” a MyEczemaTeam member declared.
Fortunately, people with eczema living in the United States may still be eligible for disability. “I actually ended up on disability because work was aggravating my eczema so badly that I kept ending up with a lot of time off from work with multiple skin infections,” wrote another member.
The Social Security Administration understands that not every disabling health condition can be listed in one neat guide. In addition to the listed conditions, the SSA offers a guideline for determining if a person is eligible despite not having one of the recognized disabling conditions.
In determining your eligibility for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration will evaluate the following criteria:
Applying for a disability claim through SSA can seem daunting; appealing a rejected claim can prove even more challenging. Before you apply for disability, take some time to familiarize yourself with the process, including learning how the SSA determines whether your condition makes you eligible for benefits.
There are two different federal disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Funded by payroll taxes, SSDI provides benefits to people with a recent full-time work history. If you are approved for SSDI, you can receive benefits six months after the date your disability began. You are eligible for Medicare 24 months after you start receiving SSDI.
SSI offers disability benefits to low-income individuals, regardless of work history. If you are approved, you can receive benefits in the next month. Additionally, you may be eligible for back payments of SSI if you became disabled before your SSI was approved.
In most states, SSI eligibility qualifies you for Medicaid. In Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and the Northern Mariana Islands, you have to apply for Medicaid separately from SSI, but the criteria are the same for both. Eligibility criteria for SSI recipients varies across states.
Almost every state provides an SSI supplement. The exceptions are Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The eligibility rules for supplements vary by state.
There is an asset cap to receiving Supplemental Security Income: $2,000 in assets for individuals or $3,000 for couples. The Social Security Administration has a list of which assets (“resources”) are considered. Your primary residence, household belongings, and one personal vehicle are not counted among these assets.
Getting both SSDI and SSI is an option for those who have very limited funds and a work history.
Applying for disability benefits requires considerable preparation and paperwork. The Social Security Administration offers a checklist of necessary application information. Consider enlisting assistance from a trusted friend, relative, or a knowledgeable professional.
“I have a very supportive dermatologist consultant … who wrote a letter of support for my application, as she has been treating me for five years now and knew how long I had been struggling to stay in work,” wrote a MyEczemaTeam member.
You can apply for SSDI online if you:
If you don’t meet those criteria, you can still apply at a local Social Security office or over the phone.
An application for disability benefits takes an average of three to five months to process. Approval can take even longer.
Only 21 percent of those who applied for disability benefits between 2009 and 2018 were approved on their first attempt. You can appeal the decision if your application is denied. The first step is reconsideration, when your case will be evaluated by someone who did not take part in the first evaluation. About 2 percent of applications that weren’t approved the first time were approved during reconsideration from 2009 through 2018.
If necessary, you have the option of filing a second appeal, which includes a hearing by an administrative law judge trained in disability laws. You may have a disability attorney represent you at this hearing. Some law firms specialize in disability hearings. In most cases, these disability lawyers do not require a set, upfront payment; rather, they will take a percentage of any benefits you do receive.
“I had to resign from my job … and file for disability. After being denied twice, I finally have a court date with my attorney. Now my biggest concern is trying to explain my condition to the judge so that he can fully understand,” wrote a member of the MyEczemaTeam.
If you are denied at this level, you can ask the Appeals Council to review your case and make a decision on it. About 8 percent of SSDI claims between 2009 and 2018 were approved during a hearing with an administrative law judge or the Appeals Council. If you are denied at this level, your last remaining option is a federal court hearing.
If you’d like to research more about disability benefits in countries outside of the United States, check out these resources, listed by country:
MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. More than members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.
Have you applied for Social Security disability benefits for eczema? Do you have any advice about the process? Comment below or start a conversation on MyEczemaTeam.