Kidney failure can meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability if you require dialysis, have received a kidney transplant, or have had certain serious medical complications related to kidney failure.

person with kidney failure using an IV at homeShare on Pinterest
Jakovo/Getty Images

Kidney failure occurs when your kidneys are not able to filter toxins out of your blood.

Early stage kidney failure does not always cause symptoms. As kidney failure progresses, you might need dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant.

These circumstances can prevent you from working, and you might wonder whether you can get disability benefits.

Kidney failure might fall under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) definition of a disability if it meets certain criteria. This might allow you to qualify for disability benefits while you manage kidney failure.

Learn more about kidney failure.

The exact definition of a disability can vary depending on your location and the agency or organization you’re working with.

One of the most commonly used definitions is the one from the SSA. The SSA determines which conditions legally qualify as a disability for the purposes of receiving disability benefits.

According to the SSA, a disability is a condition that prevents you from working, and it is expected to either last for at least a year or be fatal.

Kidney failure can sometimes meet these requirements. It depends on how severe the kidney failure is and on the type of treatment you are currently receiving.

Kidney failure can qualify as a disability when it meets certain criteria. The SSA lists the requirements for specific conditions in a document called the Blue Book. This document may now be accessed online. Its requirements for kidney failure can be found in section 6.00 under “Genitourinary Disorders.”

If you have kidney disease, the SSA will consider it a disability only if at least one of these statements is true:

You’ll need to send the SSA medical records that show how you meet these criteria. This might include test results, notes from your doctors, and treatment records.

You can read more about when kidney failure qualifies as a disability by looking through the SSA Blue Book online.

Multiple organizations can help you find out whether you qualify for disability benefits and for benefits and services from other agencies. If you have kidney failure, you might be able to receive state and local benefits, as well as federal benefits from agencies such as Medicare and Medicaid.

These organizations can help you find and apply for benefits:

  • United States Social Security Administration (SSA): The SSA has tools and resources on its site that can help you understand the benefits you might be eligible for. You can also speak with the SSA for guidance.
  • This is the central website for the Health Insurance Marketplace. It can help you find and qualify for health insurance plans.
  • Medicare is available for Americans over age 65 and for Americans with disabilities. You can find information about Medicare and how to apply on the Medicare website.
  • Medicaid is overseen by each state. It provides healthcare coverage for many people with disabilities, and its website can help you determine what benefits you might qualify for.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): The HHS has a list of agencies that can help Americans find benefits and services to service a variety of needs.
  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC enforces laws that prevent discrimination in the workplace. This includes discrimination based on disability status.
  • The Center for Medicare Advocacy: If you’re eligible for Medicare, the Center for Medicare Advocacy can help you understand your rights.
  • The American Kidney Fund: You can use the American Kidney Fund’s community resource finder tool to find disability and kidney disease programs, services, and benefits in your local area.

Multiple factors influence the outlook for people with kidney failure. Factors can include:

  • your age
  • the underlying cause of the kidney failure
  • how well that underlying cause is managed
  • the kidney failure stage at diagnosis
  • the presence of any other conditions, such as diabetes.

Your doctor can help you understand your individual outlook.

Do I need a lawyer to get disability benefits?

You don’t need a lawyer, but it can sometimes help to have legal representation. A lawyer or disability advocate can make sure your case is presented in the best possible way, which can increase your odds of receiving benefits. You can find a list of nonprofit organizations and legal referral services at your local Social Security office.

How long will it take for me to qualify for disability benefits?

The SSA states that it takes an average of 3–5 months to get a decision. If you’re denied, you’ll have 60 days to file an appeal. The timeline for your appeal will depend on the specifics of your case.

What stages of kidney disease qualify for disability?

The SSA blue book doesn’t have a specific stage listed. However, you’ll need to be receiving dialysis treatment, have received a kidney transplant, or have kidney disease that has led to serious medical complications.

Kidney failure sometimes qualifies as a disability as defined by the SSA. If your kidney failure requires dialysis, if you’ve received a kidney transplant, or if your kidney failure has led to certain medical complications, you might qualify for SSA disability benefits.

You can reach out to SSA or to other resource organizations to get help determining whether you qualify.