While psoriasis itself isn’t classified as a disability, you may qualify for benefits under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) listing of “dermatitis.”

To qualify, you’ll have to show that you have extensive skin lesions that interfere with your ability to work and that prescribed treatment isn’t improving your symptoms.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that causes pink, red, or purple raised, thick plaques of skin with overlying scales that may itch or sting. In psoriasis, an overactive immune system speeds up the growth of skin cells, which then pile up on the surface of the skin.

But the symptoms of psoriasis often go beyond what’s visible on the skin. Inflammation caused by psoriasis can affect other organs, leading to pain and fatigue that could become debilitating at times.

According to a 2013 study, one-third of 949 participants with psoriasis also had psoriatic arthritis (PsA), a condition can that cause pain and stiffness in the joints.

These symptoms, which fluctuate between periods of inflammation and periods of remission, can make it difficult for someone with psoriasis to work regularly. According to a study by the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), nearly half of people with psoriasis frequently miss work due to their condition.

A 2019 study found that increasing severity of psoriasis symptoms is not only associated with higher levels of itching and pain but also with missing more work or having to work while impaired.

More recently, a 2021 study found that people with psoriasis or PsA had higher rates of short-term disability or missed work compared to those without either condition.

If you live in the United States and you’re finding it too difficult to maintain employment because of your psoriasis, it may be a good idea to consider applying for disability benefits.

Definitions of disability

It’s important to note that there are different definitions of disability, depending on the organization. Here, we outline definitions from the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA).

ADA defines a person with a disability as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability.”

SSA defines disability as the inability “to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that is either expected to result in death or has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months “

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Social Security disability benefits may be available if your psoriasis is severe enough to limit your ability to work and earn income.

Consider applying for disability if:

  • your condition is severe enough that it causes you to miss work frequently
  • your condition affects your ability to earn enough money to support yourself or your family
  • you expect your condition to last for at least a full year or longer

It’s important not to delay your application for disability benefits since the approval process can take up to 6 months.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will provide disability benefits monthly if you can show that you can’t work due to your medical condition for at least a year.

There are two ways to apply:

  • online
  • in person, but you must call 800-772-1213 to make an appointment (Call TTY 800-325-0778 if you’re deaf or hard of hearing)

The SSA provides a Disability Starter Kit online to help you collect the information you’ll need to file a claim.

Some of the information you’ll need to fill out the application includes:

Information about yourself

  • your Social Security number
  • proof of citizenship or legal status
  • your date and place of birth
  • information about your spouse and minor children

Your medical records

  • names, addresses, and phone numbers of the doctors, hospitals, and clinics that took care of you, and dates of your visits
  • medical records
  • laboratory and test results, including dates and who ordered them
  • names and dosages of past and present medications

Employment information

  • information for any job you’ve had for the last 15 years
  • a copy of your most recent W-2 form or federal tax returns for the past year
  • information about any workers’ compensation or benefits you’ve already received

The SSA has a listing of impairments that describes conditions considered severe enough to prevent someone from working. The listing outlines criteria that must be met to qualify for disability benefits.

While there is no specific disability listing for psoriasis, the condition is mentioned in the section for skin disorders, specifically section 8.05 Dermatitis.

A doctor’s diagnosis of psoriasis won’t automatically qualify you for disability benefits. When the SSA evaluates a skin disorder like psoriasis, they require a lot of information to help them understand how your symptoms limit you and prevent you from being able to work. They’ll also want to know which treatments you’ve tried, for how long, and whether you experienced any side effects.

Though the requirements are strict, you may qualify if you can show evidence that you have extensive skin lesions that are interfering with your ability to work and that prescribed treatment isn’t improving your symptoms:

  • Extensive skin lesions are defined as lesions on more than one area of the body and that severely limit their function. For example, if lesions on the elbows and knees keep you from walking and lifting things or lesions on the palms of both hands seriously restrict your fine and gross motor movements.
  • You’re required to continue your treatment as prescribed for at least 3 months before SSA can determine whether you meet the requirements of a skin disorder listing. They will take into account your response to this treatment when they review your application.

If you also have psoriatic arthritis, you may instead qualify for benefits under section 14.09 Inflammatory arthritis.

Though you can conveniently apply for disability benefits online, the process is lengthy. The SSA requires you to collect a large amount of evidence, including medical records, to decide your case.

Here are a few resources to help you get started:

If you’re unable to work due to psoriasis, you can apply for disability with the SSA, but you’ll need detailed medical records about your condition and evidence that your treatment hasn’t worked.

It can take up to 6 months for the SSA to review your application and medical records. You can check the status of your application online, but you’ll get a letter in the mail with the SSA’s decision. If you disagree with their decision, you have up to four opportunities to appeal it.