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Why Irritable Bowel and Inflammatory Bowel Claims are Usually Approved by Social Security Disability Judges

Over the last few months, I have represented ten different clients claiming disability based on irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel diseases and every one of these cases was approved. My experience has been that disability judges recognize how IBS or IBD can significantly impact your ability get through a workday and thus preclude reliable work.

Since the main issue in any SSDI or SSI claim asks whether you have the capacity to reliably perform even a simple, entry-level job, medical issues that impact reliability will be considered disabling.

In irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, schistosomiasis, and amebic colitis cause work performance problems such as:

  • need to take frequent unscheduled restroom breaks
  • unscheduled time away from work station to use the restroomneed for a work station near and always open restroom
  • gastric pain that interferes with attention and concentration
  • excessive missed days from work due to symptoms
  • medication side effects

Two Applicable Theories of Disability

When I prepare an IBD case for hearing, I will look at Listing 5.06 (Inflammatory bowel disease) and Listing 5.08 (Weight loss due to any digestive disorder). If your colonoscopy or endooscopy documents disease in the small intestine or colon that requires surgery, then Listing 5.06 may be appliable.

If you have lost weight to the point where your BMI (body mass index) is 17.5 or lower then Listing 5.08 might apply. A BMI of 17.5 is considered anorexic and unhealthy.

You can still be found disabled even if you don’t meet a Listing – we can argue that your capacity to function reliably at work (your functional capacity) has been so eroded by your symptoms that no employer would accommodate you. I use this functional capacity argument for most irritable bowel syndrome cases as well as non-listing level IBD cases.

I would ask one of your treating doctors to complete a functional capacity evaluation that estimates your need to take excessive unscheduled breaks, or miss excessive days from work.

Impact of Age and Work Experience

Social Security disability has become much more difficult to win, especially for younger individuals and individuals without consistent work histories. In cases involving IBS or IBD, however, age and work history seems to be less of a factor. Younger individuals will need a very consistent medical treatment record and strong support from a treating doctor.

I also find that affidavits (sworn statements) from former co-workers or supervisors can be helpful in cases involving younger claimants.

If you have long standing irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel disease that has not been responsive to treatment, I would be happy to talk to you about pursuing Social Security disability benefits. Please contact me by phone at 770-393-4985 or by email at

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