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Digestive Diseases

Crohn's Disease Qualifies for Disability Benefits. Here’s How.

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
June 9, 2022  ·  4 min read

Jump to

  1. Is Crohn’s a disability?
  2. Can you get disability for Crohn’s disease? 
  3. Criteria for getting disability with Crohn’s 
  4. My Crohn’s meets the criteria. Now what?
  5. How much is a disability check for Crohn’s?
  6. What if my Crohn’s doesn’t meet the criteria?

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See if you qualify

You may not think of your Crohn’s disease as a disability, which means you might not realize you could qualify for disability benefits. But if your Crohn’s has made it difficult for you to work, you might actually be eligible. In 2021, more than 9 million people were awarded benefits, with about 132,400 of them having digestive disorders like Crohn's.

To help you qualify for benefits, we’ll explain how the Social Security Administration (SSA) evaluates conditions like Crohn’s disease, when Crohn’s can qualify as a disability, and how to get disability benefits for Crohn’s.

Is Crohn’s a disability?

Crohn’s disease is a disability according to the SSA. If you have Crohn’s and it prevents you from working, you may be able to claim monthly benefits and healthcare.

How the SSA defines Crohn’s

The SSA defines Crohn’s as a disability when it meets the criteria for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

You may qualify if your small intestine or colon is obstructed at least twice over the course of more than two months. Or you may qualify if you experience at least two of three ongoing symptoms: anemia, abdominal pain or cramping, or involuntary weight loss.

Common types of Crohn’s disease

There are five types of Crohn’s disease, each of which can qualify for Social Security disability benefits if they meet the IBD criteria. Types of Crohn’s that can qualify are:

  • Ileocolitis (the most common type of Crohn’s)
  • Ileitis
  • Gastroduodenal Crohn's disease
  • Jejunoileitis
  • Crohn's colitis

Experiencing another health condition? Learn more about what other conditions qualify for disability.

Can you get disability for Crohn’s disease? 

Yes, you can get disability for Crohn’s disease if your symptoms prevent you from working. You may be eligible if you can't work because you experience physical pain or discomfort, or because your symptoms make it difficult to focus on your work.

While you can qualify, the SSA does require you to meet strict medical criteria before you can receive benefits payments. It might be harder to qualify if you’re not already seeing a doctor to manage your Crohn’s disease. A disability lawyer can also increase your odds of approval.

Criteria for getting disability with Crohn’s 

You must meet the SSA’s criteria before you can get disability benefits. Even if you know you meet the criteria, you’ll have to prove your condition through one of the SSA’s approved methods.

Your Crohn’s may qualify for disability if you provide the results of an endoscopy, biopsy, medically-acceptable imaging, or other operative findings that show: 

  • Narrowing of the small intestine or colon that causes obstructions AND
  • The obstructions required hospitalization for either surgery or intestinal decompression AND
  • Your hospitalizations occurred at least twice and were at least 60 days apart within a consecutive six-month period

Even if you don’t meet the above criteria, you may still qualify for disability benefits if you experienced symptoms despite continuing your prescribed treatments.

You’ll have to prove that you experienced at least two the below, on at least two occasions, at least 60 days apart:

  • You presented with anemia.
  • You had low levels of blood albumin.
  • Your doctor found a tender abdominal mass during a physical exam. The mass causes pain or discomfort that is not fully controlled by a prescription.
  • You had perineal disease with an abscess or fistula that causes pain not fully controlled by a prescription.
  • You involuntarily lost at least 10% of your body weight from your documented baseline.
  • You require daily supplemental nutrition via either a gastrostomy or a central venous catheter.

Some questions to ask yourself before applying

  • Do I have trouble sitting or standing for an extended period of time?
  • Is it hard for me to meet the expectations of my job?
  • Do I need to take breaks from work to manage my pain?
  • How often do I miss work because of either my symptoms or my treatment?

If you answer yes to all or most of the above, there's a good chance your condition is severe enough to qualify you for Social Security disability.

My Crohn’s meets the criteria. Now what?

If your Crohn’s meets the SSA criteria and you have the documentation to prove it, it’s time to apply for disability benefits. Even if you’re unsure you meet all the criteria, still apply. You have nothing to lose by applying, as long as you’re honest about all of your symptoms.

If you want to save yourself some time, take our free two-minute quiz to see whether or not you qualify before you start your application. If you do qualify, we can connect you with an experienced lawyer who can increase your odds of approval. Our services are free, and you’ll only have to pay your lawyer if you win your case.

Should you apply for SSDI or SSI?

You can also increase your odds by applying for the right type of benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) both support people who can’t work because of their medical condition. But who they support varies slightly. SSDI is for people who have worked at least five of the last 10 years and paid taxes, while SSI is for people who have very little savings and income.

Make sure you apply for the right program so you can get the best benefits for your situation.

How much is a disability check for Crohn’s?

The average disability check for Crohn’s and other diseases of the digestive system is $1,444.74 per month, but your actual disability check may vary. The maximum monthly benefit for Crohn’s is $3,627 under SSDI and $914 under SSI in 2023.

The maximum payments for SSDI and SSI are the same for all conditions, regardless of how severe your disability is. But there are some factors that can impact your disability check. If you’re applying for SSDI, your personal work history will influence your payment amount. If you’re applying for SSI, the SSA will evaluate your other sources of income. In some cases, you may be able to qualify for both benefits at the same time.

What if my Crohn’s doesn’t meet the criteria?

You can still apply for disability benefits even if your Crohn’s doesn’t meet the criteria. As long as you can prove that your Crohn’s prevents you from working, it may be worth applying.

The tough reality is that qualifying for disability is difficult. Your initial application may be denied if you can’t clearly show that you meet all SSA criteria. But don’t give up. There’s no penalty for applying if all of your responses are honest and only 20% of people who apply win benefits on their first application anyway.

You can always appeal with more medical evidence and even argue your case in front of a judge. At this stage, nearly half of applicants get approved — proof that persistence pays off when it comes to your disability benefits.

See what benefits you qualify for instantly. Take our easy eligibility quiz.

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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