Shingles As a Social Security Disability

Shingles can be debilitating but rarely qualifies you for SSI disability.
Shingles can be debilitating but rarely qualifies you for SSI disability. (Image: joloei/iStock/Getty Images)

By itself, shingles rarely qualifies as a condition for which you can receive Social Security Disability benefits. Although the symptoms and pain that accompany it may keep you from working, a single case is unlikely to last for the 12 months necessary to qualify. However, if complications arise or the condition becomes chronic, the chances for approval increase.

Shingles as a Chronic Condition

Shingles is a type of herpes virus associated with chicken pox. The problem is that once you get it, it never fully leaves your body, but instead lies dormant and can return. The condition can become chronic for people with an already compromised immune system due to HIV, lupus or another autoimmune disorder. According to, most people who qualify to receive Social Security Disability due to chronic shingles also suffer from an underlying ailment.

Complications and Impairments

Aaron Hotfelder, a Social Security Disability attorney, writes on the DisabilitySecrets website that complications from shingles could qualify you for disability benefits. These include permanent nerve damage, which often manifests as facial paralysis, loss of vision and hearing loss. The issue is whether and how much these complications affect your everyday life and ability to work.

Postherpetic Neuralgia

PHN is long-term nerve damage that can follow a case of shingles. Symptoms include nerve pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, numbness, itching and muscle weakness. If these symptoms interfere with your ability to stand, walk or use your hands despite ongoing treatment, you may qualify because of the effects, or because a doctor feels that you can no longer do your job and a disability investigation also finds that you can't switch to another job.

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