You may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits if you can’t work and earn an income due to a disability. These benefits can provide you with a monthly income to cover your basic needs. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), mental health issues, like eating disorders, can qualify as disabilities.

Presenting significant medical evidence to show you qualify for disability benefits due to an eating disorder requires a strong case. At Disability Advocates Group, an eating disorder disability lawyer can help you build a strong case. We can also assist with appeals if the SSA denies your initial application. Contact us today for more information.

Understanding Disability Benefits

Disability benefits come in two primary forms:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) SSDI is available to applicants who have worked in the past and contributed to the Social Security system. To qualify for SSDI, an applicant must show they’ve accumulated sufficient “work credits” during the time they could work.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — SSI is a needs-based program. Applicants don’t need to show they’ve earned work credits or paid into Social Security to qualify for SSI. 

The SSA’s “Blue Book” offers information about the conditions that might qualify an applicant for benefits. Blue Book listings also describe the types of medical evidence disability benefits applicants need to provide.

Can You Receive Disability Benefits for an Eating Disorder?

The Blue Book includes a listing for eating disorders under the general mental disorders category of impairments. Examples of eating disorders that may qualify someone for disability benefits include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Avoidant or restrictive food disorder

Other conditions may qualify if they meet the SSA’s criteria. The fact that your eating disorder isn’t one of the above doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ineligible to receive benefits.

Eating Disorders: Criteria to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

Per the SSA, when someone with an eating disorder applies for disability benefits, they must provide medical documentation showing they struggle with a “persistent alteration” in their eating habits that “significantly impairs physical or psychological health.”

They must also show their eating disorder results in an “extreme limitation” of one of the following or a “marked limitation” of two of the following:

  • The ability to remember, comprehend, or use information they’ve learned
  • The ability to comfortably interact with others
  • The ability to concentrate, persist at a task or maintain a consistent pace while engaged in various tasks
  • The ability to manage themselves or adapt to life circumstances

No matter what type of condition an applicant has when seeking Social Security disability benefits, they must also provide evidence showing their condition is medically likely to either last for at least twelve months or result in their death.

Symptoms and Signs of Eating Disorders

The SSA may look for symptoms of an eating disorder when reviewing an application. Symptoms the SSA may consider indicative of an eating disorder include:

  • Restricting caloric intake, particularly if a person consumes less calories than they need
  • Recurrent binge-eating episodes
  • Intentional vomiting
  • Excessive exercise
  • Use of laxatives to aid in weight loss
  • Dental problems
  • Cardiac issues
  • Mood disturbances
  • Social withdrawal/inability

These aren’t the only symptoms the SSA may consider. However, if you struggle with any of these symptoms, try to document them because they’re noteworthy examples. The more documentation and medical evidence you provide to the SSA, the greater your odds of receiving disability benefits.

Evidence in Disability Benefits Cases for Eating Disorders

Gathering as much evidence as possible is wise when applying for disability benefits. The lack of sufficient medical evidence is among the most common reasons the SSA denies initial applications.

Evidence in a disability benefits case involving an applicant with an eating disorder can take several forms. Examples include:

  • Your general medical records or file from a primary care physician
  • Any relevant medical records and files from specialists involved in your treatment
  • Hospital stay records
  • Medical test results (like blood work results or heart scans)

The SSA may require you to provide additional evidence after reviewing your application. Thoroughly review the SSA’s requirements and gather the requested documentation.

Health Issues Resulting from Eating Disorders

An eating disorder on its own is a medical condition that may qualify you for disability benefits. However, eating disorders can also cause health struggles that might contribute to your inability to work. Examples of such health issues include:

  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Tooth loss
  • Bone weakness
  • Hormonal issues
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Organ failure
  • Esophagus damage

Save medical documentation of all conditions that may have resulted from an eating disorder. Your goal is to prove to the SSA that you are unable to work due to a legitimate impairment.

What if the SSA Denies an Application?

You may still be able to receive disability benefits if the SSA denies your initial application. Steps to take after receiving a denial are:

  • Requesting a reconsideration, which involves the SSA reviewing your application anew
  • Requesting a hearing with an administrative law judge if the SSA doesn’t approve your application after a reconsideration
  • Requesting an Appeals Council review if the administrative law judge doesn’t rule in your favor
  • Filing a federal district court action if none of the above results in an approval

Contact an Eating Disorders Disability Lawyer

The SSA often denies initial applications. Only about 21 percent of applicants receive approvals upon submitting their first applications for benefits.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect to receive approval when applying for disability benefits because of an eating disorder. You should coordinate with legal professionals who can help you present a strong case. At Disability Advocates Group, an eating disorders disability lawyer can assist you with completing paperwork, coordinating with doctors, appealing a denial, and any other aspect of your case. Learn more about what we can do for you by contacting us online for a free case review today.