April 26, 2019

The Listing Strategy

How to Win Your Crohn’s and Colitis Disability Case Using the Listing Argument

Social Security defines disability in terms of your inability to perform the tasks of even a simple, entry-level job.  Like most federal bureaucracies, SSA directs its claim adjustors and its judges to evaluate your Crohns/colitis claim in a very specific fashion.  This process is called the sequential evaluation process and each element has been scrutinized carefully by various courts.

As a claimant, you don’t need to worry about the details of the sequential evaluation process.  What you should be concerned about are the three ways that you can win your Crohns/colitis case:

  1. do you meet the listing for this disease?
  2. if you do not meet the listing, do the symptoms and medication side effects reduce your capacity to work to the point where you would not be a reliable employee
  3. if you are over the age of 50, with a limited education and a minimally skilled work background, do you meet the “grid rules?”

What are the Listings?

When considering whether your medical issues prevent you from performing the tasks of even simple jobs, Social Security recognizes that some medical problems are so debilitating that there is no need to ask any more questions.   These very serious medical conditions are set out in something called the “Blue Book.”   The idea behind the blue book s that if you have received a particular diagnosis and you have been seen by a doctor over an extended period of time, it can be assumed that you would not be able to keep even an entry-level, low stress, sit down type of job.

Examples of listings include:

  • congestive heart failure in which your heart is pumping at less than 30% capacity
  • diabetes not controlled by medication that has resulted in neurological damage or vision loss
  • damage to the spine that results in an inability to walk effectively

There are many more listings and if you review the Blue Book you will see that a listing level impairment is a very serious medical problem that has been clearly diagnosed and has not improved despite regular and appropriate treatment.  It is not easy to meet a listing and Social Security makes the listings very restrictive on purpose.  If you do not meet a listing, you can still win disability using either the functional capacity or grid rule argument.

What is the Listing for Crohns, Colitis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The listing that applies in a Crohns/colitis/IBS case is Listing 5.0 which describes disorders of the digestive system.  The paragraphs of the listing that generally apply in an irritable bowel case are:

Listing 5.02 – which describes gastrointestinal bleeding

Listing 5.06 – which describes inflammatory bowel diseases

Listing 5.07 – which describes “short bowel syndrome” following a surgical resection of the bowels

Listing 5.08 – which describes weight loss due to a digestive disorder

What Should You Do if You Think You Meet a Listing?

If you think you meet a listing, you will need your doctor’s help.   The simplest task would be to print out a copy of Listing 5.0, take it to your doctor and ask him/her to write a letter (narrative report) to the Social Security Administration that identifies the relevant listing and describes your treatment and prognosis.

Attorneys often reformat the listings into checklists that track the language of the listing and also include space for the doctor to identify the activity limitations that apply in case the adjudicator or judge would be more comfortable with a functional capacity argument.

When Can You Make a Listing Argument?

Statistically, most listing level cases are approved at the time of your initial application for benefits, but listing level cases are also approved at the reconsideration appeal stage and at hearings.   Disability attorneys see their role as helping the Social Security decision maker see the work activity limitations associated with  your inflammatory bowel disease, and this is the approach you ought to take as well.

If you would like a no-obligation consultation with a disability lawyer, please complete the case evaluation form on this site.