Ingesting certain foods can be risky for people with severe food allergies. Foods such as eggs, nuts or shellfish can send them to the hospital within minutes of exposure. Researchers believe up to 15 million Americans live with serious food allergies, and the number is growing. A federal Justice Department settlement with a Massachusetts college may provide new legal options for people with serious allergies. In late 2012, Lesley University agreed to serve gluten-free foods and provide other accommodations to students with allergies. Furthermore, it agreed to a $50,000 cash settlement for students who had been affected by a lack of menu choices in the school’s mandatory meal plan. In this case, the Justice Department treated serious food allergies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since the disability law was broadened in 2008, a number of institutions have taken steps to accommodate people with food allergies. This settlement may lead to greater legal recourse for people with food allergies when restaurants and other food providers fail to accommodate their dietary limitations.

Eligibility for SSD

Having a food allergy claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act is not the same as having a claim for Social Security Disability because of a food allergy. However, if you can prove that you’re incapable of working because of restraints caused by your allergy, you may be eligible for benefits. Essentially, this means you must show that your food allergy causes extreme limitations to your ability to do your job. When you apply for Social Security Disability, be sure to include the following documentation in your medical record:

  • A history of any exposure to food allergens;
  • A family history of similar food allergies;
  • Any variations that may occur with your food allergy;
  • Stress factors; and
  • How food allergies affect your ability to work outside a protected area.

Your personal history of allergic reactions and your description of how you operate outside a protected environment are essential to your disability claim. So be sure this key information is included in the required paperwork. This can make all the difference in the acceptance of your claim.

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About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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