Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A bit of a relief.... 

One of the fibromyalgia Facebook pages I peruse had on it a link to Social Security's online Blue Book, their listings of disabling impairments. I scrolled through it to see if there was anything new. To my surprise, in the autoimmune disorder section is Sjogren's syndrome! When I applied for Social Security disability benefits in 2005, that wasn't an option. I ended up being awarded SSDI for a "complex multi-system illness of unknown etiology".

I am a little less nervous than I was about having to undergo a CDR (Continuing Disability Review) sometime in the future because I will now fit the criteria for a specific disabling condition (fibromyalgia is still not listed in the Blue Book by name that I know of). I was subject to review as of 2008, but luckily for me, Social Security is so understaffed and backlogged that they haven't gotten around to my case yet. When they do, though, and I get their notice in the mail, I have only 10 days to get a response to them and provide proof that I am current on my doctor's visits (which is why I insist on seeing the rheumatologist every three months even though there are no new treatments to try) and have not improved significantly enough to go back to work. If I am EXTREMELY lucky, Social Security might not get to me for three more years, when I will be 50 years old. Fifty is the magical age where Social Security deems it less likely (than a younger person) that you will have recovered enough to regain employment.

Of course, it would be even better to have not gotten sick in the first place. But I can't fix that.

In case any of you are curious, here is Social Security's listing for Sjogren's syndrome, copied directly from their Blue Book:

7. Sjögren’s syndrome (14.10).

a. General.

(i) Sjögren’s syndrome is an immunomediated disorder of the exocrine glands. Involvement of the lacrimal and salivary glands is the hallmark feature, resulting in symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth, and possible complications, such as corneal damage, blepharitis (eyelid inflammation), dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing), dental caries, and the inability to speak for extended periods of time. Involvement of the exocrine glands of the upper airways may result in persistent dry cough.

(ii) Many other organ systems may be involved, including musculoskeletal (arthritis, myositis), respiratory (interstitial fibrosis), gastrointestinal (dysmotility, dysphagia, involuntary weight loss), genitourinary (interstitial cystitis, renal tubular acidosis), skin (purpura, vasculitis), neurologic (central nervous system disorders, cranial and peripheral neuropathies), mental (cognitive dysfunction, poor memory), and neoplastic (lymphoma). Severe fatigue and malaise are frequently reported. Sjögren’s syndrome may be associated with other autoimmune disorders (for example, rheumatoid arthritis or SLE); usually the clinical features of the associated disorder predominate.

b. Documentation of Sjögren’s syndrome. If you have Sjögren’s syndrome, the medical evidence will generally, but not always, show that your disease satisfies the criteria in the current “Criteria for the Classification of Sjögren’s Syndrome” by the American College of Rheumatology found in the most recent edition of the Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases published by the Arthritis Foundation.

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