Kidney dialysis can be exhausting — from repeated hospital visits to the financial difficulties it causes, dialysis and related kidney problems can be a struggle to cope with.
Fortunately, the U.S. government recognizes the strain of dialysis and may be able to help. If you rely on dialysis to live, it may be in your best interest to apply for disability benefits. Social Security benefits were created to help people in need, and your case may just be the next to qualify.
Step One: Determine how much your kidney dialysis limits you.
Before starting the application, it is important to assess and document your situation to determine all the ways your life is affected by your dialysis. This will help the Social Security Administration (SSA) better understand your circumstances later on in the process.
For example, most people are on kidney dialysis because of chronic kidney disease, or CKD. This disease can cause many adverse symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or swelling of the extremities. People who experience these symptoms may have a difficult time living their normal lives; they may have difficulty with everything from working to cooking to using the restroom.
Dialysis also causes logistic problems — for instance, is your dialysis done at home or in a hospital? Does someone need to take you to regular appointments? Does the dialysis itself cause any physical or mental strain?
The more your dialysis limits you, the more likely you are to qualify for full and expedient disability benefits.
Step Two: Consult the Blue Book and retrieve test results to demonstrate your disability.
To qualify medically for disability benefits, applicants must be considered “totally and permanently disabled.” This term is used by the SSA to describe people whose severe physical or mental disorder is expected to a) last longer than one year, or b) result in death. To determine this, the SSA compares all applicants to the “Blue Book,” which contains a list of all Social Security-approved disorders.
Dialysis is listed under Section 6: “Genitourinary Disorders - Adult” under subsection 6.03: “Chronic kidney disease.” In order to qualify, applicants must have a diagnosis of CKD and receive regular hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. This dialysis must have lasted or be expected to last for a period of at least 12 months in order to qualify. Because the SSA recognizes the various ways dialysis changes a person’s life, it is extremely uncommon for someone on dialysis not to qualify medically.
It is also important to include medical documentation not just from the time your dialysis started, but from the time your kidney troubles began. Certain people qualify for disability benefits without having dialysis, so you may be eligible to receive retroactive payments for the entire period prior to dialysis during which you qualified.
Step Three: Gather paperwork and prepare to fill out the application.
Applicants are also required to provide work history and tax information when applying for benefits. This information is used by the SSA to determine a) how much money in taxes you have contributed to Social Security in the past, b) how your condition has affected your ability to work, and c) what program(s) you may qualify for. For instance, a person with enough “credits” (taxes given to the SSA) may be better suited for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), while a person with no work history may be better suited for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
When preparing for the application, be sure to include every piece of paperwork you have on hand that can further explain your circumstances to the SSA. This includes all medical documents, physicians’ notes, hospitalization history, medication lists, bank statements, pay stubs, coworker/boss testimonies, and all other general info. You never know what info the SSA will need, so it is best to include as much as possible in your application.
Financial Cost of Kidney Dialysis
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to kidney dialysis is the cost. There are financial costs, as in the cost of treatment, and then there is the time cost as patients must visit hospitals or dialysis clinics for treatment.
In some cases, people who must undergo kidney dialysis might not have available sick time to use for treatment, and when treatments take place several times per week this can place a burden on employers. This is where qualifying to Social Security disability benefits is all the more important, as lost wages and the inability to work a full week can present additional challenges that could even lead to loss of employment.
Qualifying with Kidney Dialysis Using Medical Vocational Allowance
Not all medical conditions will qualify for disability benefits under the Blue Book guidelines but a condition can qualify under the medical-vocational allowance guidelines. The medical-vocational guidelines are used when a claim doesn’t meet the criteria to be considered a disability but the condition will prevent an applicant from performing the duties and functions of a job.
To qualify, the SSA will evaluate your age, education, work history and work experiences and your residual function capacity (RFC). The RFC is a measurement of the maximum amount of work that you are capable of doing, and it will be used to gauge whether you are capable of performing the demands of your job.
The medical-vocational allowance examines exertional demands of work, which include walking, standing, sitting, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling, as well as nonexertional demands of work such as mental demands, posture, the ability to manipulate objects, visual ability, communication and environmental considerations. It’s possible that the SSA will determine that while you’re not disabled under the Blue Book, your condition makes it impossible for your to perform the demands of your job, and thus it is possible to receive disability benefits.
How to Apply
Applying for Social Security disability benefits requires completing an application. It’s a very detailed application that requires a great deal of medical documentation in order for the SSA to make a determination in your claim.
The easiest way to apply is online via the Social Security Administration website. Once you create an account and log into the application, this will serve as your start date even though it could be some time before you actually submit the claim. This is beneficial because any back payments you are owed will date back to when you started your claim rather than when it was submitted.
You can also file a paper application. You can pick up an application at a local SSA branch office or you can print one from the website. If you know you will be filing a claim but it might be some time before you actually submit it, consider filing a protective filing date statement that will serve as your intent to file, and that will serve as the date for your back pay rather than when you submit your application.
You can either mail your paper application to the SSA, or you can hand it in at the local SSA branch. Keep in mind that you should have a copy of all documentation being submitted in a paper application in case it gets lost in the mail.
When filing in person, there is always a drop box in every SSA branch location where you can drop off your application, or you can make an appointment to speak with someone. Keep in mind that appointments book quickly so there could be a wait to see an agent in person.
Contacting a Social Security Attorney
If you are considering filing for disability benefits, you may also want to consider speaking with a disability attorney. They can help when filling out applications, keeping paperwork organized, and aiding you in the appeals process if necessary.
Before starting your application, consider speaking with a disability attorney today for help getting the monthly benefits you deserve.