Can unseen disabilities qualify for Social Security benefits?

Many physical or mental impairments aren’t easily seen by others, but can qualify for Social Security disability payments.

When most people think about a long-term or permanent disability, the picture of someone who has been seriously hurt in an accident or born with a crippling condition might come to mind. Less evident, but by no means less important, are disabilities that people cannot see. These are often referred to as "invisible" disabilities.

In some ways, Indiana residents with invisible conditions face unique challenges. Their family members and friends may not believe they have a disabling condition. Their doctors might tell them it is all in their head or not understand how to diagnose or treat them. Employers and strangers may discriminate against them if they need special accommodations, such as a handicapped car sticker or reduced hours at work. However, none of these challenges mean that a person suffering from an invisible impairment is in any less pain than those whose disabilities can be seen.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that a person suffering from an invisible condition on a long-term or permanent basis may be eligible to receive benefits from Social Security. An invisible illness can cause significant physical or emotional pain, which may affect a sufferer during his or her daily activities. However, many of those who have invisible illnesses go to great lengths to keep others from seeing their suffering. They may not want their loved ones to worry, or they may have faced accusations of "faking it" by employers or doctors.

What are some common invisible illnesses?

One of the most common, yet misunderstood and misdiagnosed, invisible disabilities is fibromyalgia. This illness causes fatigue and chronic, severe pain, among other symptoms that may make it difficult or impossible for the sufferer to work. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, fibromyalgia can qualify for benefits if sufferers are able to prove that they have the condition. Additional invisible disabilities that may be eligible for benefits include the following:

  • Lupus and Lyme disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome or severe sleep disorders
  • Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and other mental illnesses
  • Permanent or long-term disability from a brain injury
  • Muscle or nerve conditions

According to Disabled World, up to 10 percent of all people in the United States suffer from a chronic, invisible condition that may be disabling. Sadly, many of these illnesses are difficult to prove, which may increase the likelihood of a disability claim being denied. It may be necessary then to appeal a claim.

Those who are suffering from an invisible illness will need to provide proof from medical professionals of their disability. This process may be difficult, which is why an experienced
Social Security disability attorney in Indianapolis may be a valuable ally.