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Retinopathy of Prematurity: Government Recognizes Severity

Premature births can cause a number of dangerous conditions. One of these risks is a condition known as retinopathy of prematurity or ROP. ROP is an eye disease that results from developmental problems with the blood vessels that line the retina. In serious cases, ROP can cause permanent blindness.

In a recognition of the challenges that ROP patients face after a premature birth, the Social Security Administration recently added Stage 5 ROP to its list of Compassionate Allowances. The Compassionate Allowance list contains 200 conditions that the SSA considers severe enough to justify an expedited review of an application for disability benefits.

Stage 5 ROP refers to a total retinal detachment. While the other four stages are somewhat less severe, Stage 5 ROP patients suffer from almost complete vision loss and often have no sight whatsoever.

The SSA's new listing will make it easier for some patients and families to get the support they need to live with ROP. Stage 5 patients will be able to quickly and efficiently secure disability benefits - often in as little as two weeks. For non-Stage 5 cases, however, patients might not be able to qualify for benefits.

If negligence on the part of a doctor or hospital contributed to an unnecessarily premature birth, families may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim to hold those parties accountable. For most ROP patients, this will likely be the best option to provide for the future challenges of severe vision difficulties.

Source: Social Security Administration, "Social Security Announces New Compassionate Allowances Conditions," Dec. 6, 2012

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