Hepatitis C is a disease that can make you feel old before your time. While there is no doubt that treatment with the new generation of direct acting antivirals like Harvoni is by far the best option this is not available to everyone, either because they don't qualify under their insurance, don't have insurance, or can not afford the $1250 cost to get generic hepatitis c treatment.
This guest blog was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help and outlines how you can get help if you have become too sick to work. This includes both financial support and the potential to access to subsidised treatment.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits With Hepatitis C
If you have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and will be unable to work for at least one year, you might be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial resources for people who are unable to work for an extended period of time due to a serious illness. Hepatitis C will not automatically qualify, and unfortunately, most people with the condition will not be approved. Severe cases will qualify though, meaning you could be eligible for payments to help with your daily living expenses, as well as access to health insurance to pay for your hepatitis treatments.
12 Months and Social Security Disability
Social Security disability benefits are never temporary. They’re only available for people who expect to have a disability that lasts at least a year. This means that if you’ve recently been diagnosed with hepatitis C and have a good prognosis with minimal liver damage and a strong treatment plan, you likely won’t qualify. You also will not qualify if you’ve had hepatitis C for years but your symptoms are managed well. The SSA will not consider you to be “disabled” unless you are completely unable to earn at least $1,170 per month (in 2017). If you expect to be finished with treatments within a few months, or your condition is well managed, it’s not advisable to apply for disability benefits.
Qualifying Via the Blue Book
For those with severe liver damage, medical qualification is possible and potentially guaranteed, depending on your liver function. The SSA evaluates all hepatitis C applicants under its own medical guide, known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book is a manual listing all potential disabling conditions, plus the symptoms you’d need to qualify. Hepatitis c would fall under Section 5.05: Chronic liver disease. Chronic liver disease is arguably the most complicated listing in the Blue Book. There are actually seven ways to qualify under this listing, and all require medical tests evaluating your serum levels, blood quality, and more. The Blue Book was written for medical professionals and is available entirely online, so please review the listing with your hepatologist! He or she can help you navigate the guide and determine if your hepatitis c meets any liver disease listings. If you require a liver transplant, rest assured that your liver disease will qualify. You will also automatically qualify for disability benefits for at least 12 months after a liver transplant surgery.
Starting Your Application
Most people can apply for Social Security disability benefits online. If you’d prefer, you can also apply in person at your closest office by scheduling an appointment at 1-800-772-1213. There are over 1,000 offices across the US.
You’ll usually hear back from the SSA within three to five months. If your application is denied, do not give up! The SSA has a thorough appeals process, which allows you to fight your claim. While just 30% of applicants are initially applied, nearly 70% are eventually approved after pursuing their claims further.