July 31, 2014

Can a Rare Medical Condition Like Dupuytren’s Disease Qualify Me for Disability?

I recently responded to a question on Yahoo Answers about a disease called Dupuytren’s Disease.  Dupuytren’s is a disease of the connective tissue in the palm of the hand.  The tissue becomes rigid and immobile, causing the patient’s hands to become fixed in a bent condition.

The person asking the question wanted to know if Dupuytren’s would qualify a claimant for Social Security disability.  My response was that it might depending on how severe the condition was and whether the claimant had one or more treating doctors who would help by completing a functional capacity form.

The question itself was phrased as follows: "is Dupuytrens considered a disability under the Social Security Administration?"  As I typed out my answer it occured to me that the person posting the question was asking the wrong question.  Social Security disability is not "about" any particular disease or condition.  Further, the issue is not whether Social Security recognizes a particular condition, the correct question is "how does my medical condition limit my capacity to perform work like activities."  I have been involved in cases where the medical record is quite vague – sometimes different doctors do not agree on the diagnosis and sometimes the doctor will acknowledge that there are is no test that can be run to definitively document a disease or condition.

Therefore, if you have a rare or unusual disease like Dupuytren’s Disease, you may very well qualify for Social Security disability.  You and your lawyer may need to educate your judge about the condition and you will definitely need support from your doctor.   The important point here is identify the main issue in your Social Security claim and to create a theory of your case that will convince a judge that despite your best efforts, you simply cannot work.

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 23 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.