Last Updated on June 29, 2023 by Steven Root

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can qualify as a disability if specific criteria are met.

This guide will help you to understand:

  • Ulcerative colitis’s potential to qualify as a legal disability
  • The criteria for receiving benefits
  • The application process for disability benefits
  • Whether legal assistance might be beneficial
  • How much your ulcerative colitis disability payment could be

Understanding Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that can significantly affect a person’s overall health and quality of life. It primarily impacts the innermost lining of your colon and rectum, often resulting in severe and debilitating symptoms.

Symptoms and Complications

People with ulcerative colitis commonly experience:

  • Frequent, urgent bowel movements
  • Blood or pus in the stool
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Fatigue and weight loss
  • Fever

The disease can also cause systemic issues beyond the digestive tract, including skin, eye, joint problems, and more.

Whilst medications are still the main treatment form, holistic therapies such as diet and lifestyle are increasingly being used effectively to manage ulcerative colitis symptoms.

Enquire here for help in building a diet & lifestyle plan to mitigate against ulcerative colitis symptoms.

Is Ulcerative Colitis Legally a Disability?

Ulcerative colitis can greatly interfere with an individual’s ability to carry out normal daily activities, including work. As such, it can qualify as a disability.

Legal Recognition

In the United States, the Social Security Administration (SSA) acknowledges ulcerative colitis as a disability under its listing for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (source). However, individuals must meet specific criteria to qualify.

Ulcerative Colitis Disability Criteria

According to the SSA’s website, you can qualify for disability benefits for ulcerative colitis if you have:

A. Obstruction of stenotic areas (not adhesions) in the small intestine or colon with proximal dilatation, confirmed by appropriate medically acceptable imaging or in surgery, requiring hospitalization for intestinal decompression or for surgery, and occurring on at least two occasions at least 60 days apart within a consecutive 6-month period.


B. Two of the following despite continuing treatment as prescribed and occurring within the same consecutive 6-month period:

1. Anemia with hemoglobin of less than 10.0 g/dL, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or

2. Serum albumin of 3.0 g/dL or less, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or

3. Clinically documented tender abdominal mass palpable on physical examination with abdominal pain or cramping that is not completely controlled by prescribed narcotic medication, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or

4. Perineal disease with a draining abscess or fistula, with pain that is not completely controlled by prescribed narcotic medication, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or

5. Involuntary weight loss of at least 10 percent from baseline, as computed in pounds, kilograms, or BMI, present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart; or

6. Need for supplemental daily enteral nutrition via a gastrostomy or daily parenteral nutrition via a central venous catheter.

Maintaining meticulous medical records and collaborating closely with your healthcare provider can help greatly in ensuring that you can meet these criteria.

How To Apply For Ulcerative Colitis Disability Benefits

First, you’ll need to fill out an initial disability application with the SSA. This application includes detailed information about your medical condition, your work history, and how your condition affects your ability to work.

After the initial application, you may need to undergo a disability interview and/or complete additional forms.

It’s important to provide as much detailed and accurate information as possible to increase your chances of approval.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Help You Apply?

A disability lawyer can help you understand the process, gather necessary evidence, fill out forms, and represent you in any hearings or appeals. However, hiring a lawyer is not a requirement, and many people successfully navigate the process on their own.

What Will Your Monthly Benefit Payment Be For Ulcerative Colitis?

The monthly payment amount for disability benefits depends on several factors including

  • the Social Security program you’re qualified under
  • your work history
  • and average lifetime earnings before the disability began

There are two programs through which the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSDI is generally for those who’ve been working, whilst SSI is generally for those who have little to no work history or income.

You can apply for both programs at the same time and the SSA will decide which program you are qualified under, or whether you qualify for both.

For SSDI (link), the amount you receive is based on your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME), a calculation that involves your taxable income from previous years. As of 2021, the average SSDI benefit amount was around $1,277 per month. However, it can range from $800 to $1,800 (source).

SSI payments (link) are based on financial need rather than work history. The maximum federal payment changes yearly. As of 2021, the maximum SSI amount is $794 for an eligible individual and $1,191 for an eligible individual with an eligible spouse.

Keep in mind, these are average and maximum amounts. The exact disability benefit amount varies from person to person, and your individual circumstances will influence what you might receive. Also note, other income you receive could impact your benefit amount.


To recap:

  • Ulcerative colitis can qualify as a legal disability
  • There are specific criteria to qualify for disability benefits, detailed above
  • Individuals can complete the application themselves, but a lawyer is sometimes appointed
  • You can apply to both the SSDI and SSI programs, potentially qualifying for both