Are There Disability Options for IBS?

It is important to be aware of the various types of IBS disability options should your IBS reach the level of a disability that interferes with your ability to work. Of course, your need for time off will depend on the severity of your symptoms. In most cases, you may only need to use sick leave to cover a day or two off from a bad IBS episode. If your symptoms are more persistent, you may find yourself in need of longer leave. Below you will find some options, ranging from the least disruptive to the more permanent.

Reasonable Accommodations through the ADA

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The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination of employees based on an established disability. The nice thing about the act is that it requires employers to utilize "reasonable accommodations" to help an employee to work in spite of their disability. If your times of symptom exacerbation are predictable, you may be able to speak with your employer about modifying your work schedule so that you can work at times when your body is quieter. Another option is to work from home on days when your symptoms are more severe.

For more on ADA rights and accommodations, see:

Short Term Disability

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Some companies provide a short-term disability benefit. To find out what your company's policy is, check your Employee Benefit handbook or make an appointment to speak with Human Resources personnel. Short-term disability policies pay a portion of your salary if your illness will result in your being unable to work for a short period of time. How much you will be paid and how long you will be covered depends on your company's insurance policy.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

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If your company does not have a short-term disability benefit or your symptoms do not qualify for such, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be an option for you. FMLA entitles you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within any 12 month period. Taking FMLA protects your job and allows you to maintain your health benefits while you are off of work. 

Long Term Disability

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Long term disability is an option if your company has a long-term disability policy. Again, you will need to read your Employee Benefits handbook or speak with Human Resources. Long term disability policies usually do not kick in until short-term benefits have been used up. Long term disability policies also pay a certain percentage of your salary depending on your company's plan. The length of coverage depends on the policy and may be limited to 5 to 10 years or may pay benefits until you reach the age of 65.

Social Security Disability

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If your IBS is so severe that you do not foresee that you will ever be able to maintain employment, you might want to consider applying for Social Security Disability benefits (U.S. only). The process requires you to fill out an application and wait for a decision from a state agency who will make a determination as to whether or not your illness qualifies as a disabling condition.

Do Your Homework

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Regardless of whatever option best suits your circumstances, it is important that you establish a paper trail of your illness. Keep good records, including dates, medical procedures, and medications. It might also be a good idea to keep a symptom diary, documenting the severity of your symptoms and your response to medical treatment.

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