You may be eligible for disability benefits if you have severe hidradenitis suppurativa that prevents you from working.

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic, painful skin condition that stems from your apocrine glands, which are sweat glands. Sometimes called acne inversus, HS causes lumps underneath your skin that look like severe acne lesions.

In some cases, HS symptoms may interfere with your daily activities, including working. As such, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may consider severe cases of HS for disability benefits.

Learn more about what disability benefits you might qualify for if you have HS, including the requirements government agencies will consider when assessing your application.

To qualify for federal disability benefits, the SSA considers cases in which HS has caused extensive and severe symptoms for at least 3 months despite treatment in the following areas:

The agency will also need detailed information about your experience with HS. Some of this information includes documents that show:

  • when you were diagnosed
  • the extent and location of your lesions
  • the severity of HS lesions
  • treatments you have tried or are currently using, such as medications or injections
  • an outlook from your doctor

The SSA offers benefits through either the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program or the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.

There are key differences between SSDI and SSI. With SSDI, benefits are provided based on your previous earnings, or that of your spouse or caregiver. It is designed to compensate for lost job earnings.

SSI is designed for people with little or no regular income. Depending on where you live, you might also qualify for state-level SSI in addition to your federal benefits. These regular payments help you pay for rent and medical bills. You may get additional assistance to help you pay for food.

Another program to consider is Medicaid. Medicaid is health insurance coverage for people with limited income.

Lesions from HS are extremely tender and painful. These can also open up and scar. HS most often develops in areas where skin rubs against skin.

The most common areas HS lumps develop include your underarms, groin, and inner thighs. They can also develop on your belly, underneath your breasts, or in the perineum, which is the area between your anus and your genitalia.

Depending on their location and severity, HS lesions may make walking, bending, or moving around at work difficult. Even desk work can be difficult if you’re in pain while sitting or typing.

A note on private disability insurance

Private disability insurance is a separate program from Social Security benefits. This insurance is either paid for ahead of time through monthly premiums, on an individual basis, or as part of your employer’s benefits package. In either case, you must file a claim first.

It may be quicker to access private disability insurance benefits, as you will already have paid into the program. However, payments are usually temporary. But it’s possible to receive benefits from both private disability insurance and Social Security.

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Extensive HS abscesses may also require that you’re able to change dressings several times a day to address wounds, decrease drainage, and reduce the risk of infection. This could translate to needing frequent breaks that may disrupt your workday.

Social Security will also look at the frequency of your HS flare-ups. If it is determined that your condition limits gainful employment or limits your ability to work for 12 months, you may be considered for disability benefits.

To apply for disability for HS or other conditions, the SSA requires the following documents:

  • your birth certificate
  • your Social Security card
  • proof of citizenship (if you were not born in the United States)
  • tax information, such as your W-2 or 1099 forms or self-employment tax records
  • proof of worker’s compensation benefits paid out
  • copies of recent medical records, test results, or doctor’s notes

You will also need to provide additional information that can assist Social Security with processing your application, such as:

  • contact information for all doctors you see
  • contact information for a relative or friend who can attest to your HS
  • details about medications you take
  • your work history, including information that dates back to the last 15 years (up to 5 jobs only)

Applying for disability online is the quickest way to get your claim started, and you don’t have to make an appointment. However, if you prefer, you can still apply in person at your local SSA office.

  • You may be able to get disability benefits if you have severe HS that prevents you from working.
  • To qualify, you will need documentation from healthcare professionals.