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Can You Get Disability for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
June 9, 2022  ·  3 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

See if you qualify

If your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is so severe that it’s difficult for you to work, you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. In 2021, the Social Security Administration (SSA) awarded disability benefits to 127,272 workers who had digestive disorders like IBD.

To help you understand if you qualify, we’ll explain what criteria the SSA uses to decide whether your IBD qualifies for disability, and how you can apply for benefits for your IBD.


Is inflammatory bowel disease a disability?

The SSA considers IBD a disability when it limits your ability to work. In these cases, having IBD can qualify you for monthly disability payments and healthcare benefits.

How the SSA defines inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for disorders that impact the digestive system, including the intestines, colon, and rectum. When assessing your IBD, the SSA will look for common symptoms like diarrhea (often mixed with blood), loss of bowel control, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramping or pain, involuntary weight loss, and even anemia and malnutrition.

Common types of inflammatory bowel disease

There are two common types of IBD that also fall under the SSA’s official listing for IBD. It’s possible to qualify for benefits with either of these:

Note that IBD is distinct from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and each condition is handled differently by the SSA. Learn more about getting disability with IBS.


Can you get disability for inflammatory bowel disease?

Yes, you can get disability for inflammatory bowel disease if your condition makes it impossible for you to work.

Before you can receive benefits payment, you’ll have to prove to the SSA that your IBD meets their strict medical criteria. You’re also more likely to qualify for Social Security disability if you’re already seeing a specialist and your symptoms have continued despite treatment.

Working with an experienced disability lawyer can also increase your odds of approval.


Criteria for getting disability with inflammatory bowel disease

IBD can cause pain and discomfort that makes it difficult to complete your regular work activities but unfortunately, just experiencing IBD symptoms isn’t enough to qualify for Social Security disability. The SSA will require specific proof that your symptoms are both severe and ongoing before they’ll approve your application.

To qualify for benefits, your IBD must meet one or both of the following criteria:

1. You’ve experienced the following and it’s documented by an endoscopy, biopsy, medical imaging, or an operation:

  • Your small intestine or colon has been obstructed. AND

  • You were hospitalized for intestinal decompression or surgery. AND

  • This has occurred at least twice, with each event at least 60 days apart within a consecutive six-month period.

OR

2. Despite treatment for your IBD, you’ve experienced at least two of the following within a consecutive six-month period:

  • Anemia

  • Low serum albumin (hypoalbuminemia)

  • Clinically-documented abdominal mass, causing pain or cramping that doesn’t respond to your prescribed medication

  • Perineal disease with a draining abscess or fistula

  • Involuntary weight loss of at least 10% of your baseline weight

  • The need for supplemental nutrition

Some other questions to ask yourself before applying:

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis?

  • Have you been hospitalized more than once because of your IBD?

  • Do you often miss work because of your pain or other symptoms?

  • Have you struggled to control your bowels?

  • Have you lost a significant amount of weight in a short period?


My IBD meets the disability criteria. Now what?

If your IBD meets the SSA’s criteria and you have all the required documentation, you’re ready to apply for disability benefits. You can still apply if you’re unsure whether you’ll get approved, but the application is lengthy and you could be making extra work for yourself if you don’t think you’ll get approved.

You can also find out whether or not you qualify before you apply by taking our free 2-minute disability quiz. If you do qualify, we can connect you with a qualified lawyer who can increase your odds of approval. (You won’t have to pay your lawyer until you get approved for disability benefits).

Apply now if:

  • You’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis. OR

  • Your symptoms make it impossible to work. AND

  • You are already seeing a gastroenterologist or other specialist. AND

  • Your doctor doesn’t think your condition will improve within a year.

Consider waiting and applying later if:

  • You’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis, but your doctor thinks you can get it under control within a year. OR

  • You’re still working, even if you think you might have to stop soon because of your IBD.

Probably don’t apply if:

  • Your Crohn’s or colitis are difficult to live with, but they don’t stop you from working.

  • You’re earning more than $1,400 per month and don’t plan to stop working.

Your odds of success also increase if you have multiple conditions that could possibly qualify. Learn about other conditions eligible for disability benefits.

Which types of benefits should you apply for?

There are two types of Social Security disability programs. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is generally available if you’ve worked at least five of the last 10 years. If you don’t have much work history and little to no monthly income, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) might be a better fit for you.

Luckily, they both use the same application. You can apply for both at once and the SSA will determine which you may qualify for. It’s also possible to qualify for both programs.


How much is a disability check for inflammatory bowel disease?

The average disability check for people with inflammatory bowel diseases and other digestive diseases is $1,444.74 per month.

Your monthly disability check amount depends on your personal situation, including your work and income history. Regardless of how severe your IBD is, the maximum monthly SSDI benefit is $3,822 and the maximum monthly SSI benefit is $943 for 2024.


What if my inflammatory bowel disease doesn’t meet the criteria?

If your IBD doesn’t meet the SSA criteria, you can still apply. There’s no downside to applying as long as you’re honest about your condition and how it impacts your ability to work.

In fact, even if your IBD is severe and meets all the criteria, the SSA only approves 20% of initial applications. If you do get denied, you can appeal your case and eventually get a hearing in front of a judge. Just over half of applicants get approved at the hearing stage.

Check out our step-by-step guide to applying for disability benefits for more support through the application process.

Many conditions are eligible for disability benefits. See what you qualify for instantly.

Other conditions that can qualify for disability:

Alzheimer's

Anemia

Anxiety

Arthritis

Asthma

Autism

Back pain

Bipolar disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder

Brain tumor

Breast cancer

Cancer

Carpal tunnel

Colostomy bag

Coma/Vegetative States

COPD

Crohn's disease

Depression

Diabetes

Dialysis

Epilepsy

Fibromyalgia

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Insomnia

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Kidney disease

Long Covid

Lupus

Mental illness

Migraines

Narcolepsy

OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

Panic disorder

Parkinson's

Peripheral neuropathy

PTSD

Rheumatoid Arthritis Schizophrenia

Sciatica

Sickle cell

Ulcerative colitis

See all conditions

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

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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