The endocrine system regulates all the hormones in your body, and includes the pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid, pituitary, pineal, and adrenal glands. If you make too much or too little of a particular hormone, your body's ability to function will be impaired. Sometimes, the effects of a hormone disorder can be so disabling that you can't work.
To determine whether you are eligible for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) must first ensure you meet the basic qualifications:
If you meet these basic requirements, the SSA will then look at your the effects of your endocrine disorder to see if they meet the requirements one of the SSA's official impairment listings established in the Listing of Impairments (the "blue book"). If your endocrine disorder matches a listing, you will be automatically approved. (Learn more about how to qualify medically for disability in general.)
Endocrine disorders are discussed in the SSA's Listing 9.00 and include disorders of the:
Because many of these glandular disorders are successfully controlled by medication, and only become disabling if they can't be controlled and they damage other body systems, in 2011 the SSA eliminated its particular listings that laid out the level of severity required for each type of endocrine disorder. With the exception of juvenile diabetes, endocrine disorders are now evaluated under the listing for whichever body system that has suffered damage from the hormonal imbalance.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and other pancreatic gland disorders affect the body’s metabolism, digestion, and production of insulin. The method by which the SSA evaluates these impairments is particularly complex. In a nutshell, the SSA will determine whether you have experienced such complications as diabetic ketoacidosis, chronic hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia using various impairment listings based on your symptoms. For more information, see our article on how to get disability benefits for diabetes-related complications.
The only exception to this rule is juvenile diabetes mellitus (type 1 or 2). For this condition, the SSA kept its impairment listing: Listing 109.08, for children under six who require daily insulin. This listing includes one simple rule. The SSA will approve disability benefits for any child under 6 who requires daily insulin.
Your pituitary disorder will be assessed based on how it affects your body's ability to function. For instance, a pituitary disorder can affect the kidneys and lead to diabetes insipidus (DI). Under this scenario, your kidney disease would be evaluated under Listing 6.00, Genitourinary Impairments, to determine if it meets the criteria for automatic approval. If your pituitary disorder affects another part of your body, your disorder will be assessed under the appropriate listing for that part of the body.
Disorders with your thyroid gland can cause heart problems, unintentional weight loss, strokes, depression, anxiety, and cognitive problems. The SSA will evaluate your thyroid disorder based on the complications you experience:
Like all endocrine disorders, to assess whether your parathyroid disorder meets or equals a listing, the SSA will evaluate the disorder based on the complications you experience in other parts of your body:
Disorders of the adrenal gland can affect your bones, blood pressure, metabolism and mood. To assess whether your adrenal gland meets or equals a listing, the SSA will look at how the symptoms affect your body:
If your endocrine disorder doesn’t meet the requirements for any of the above impairment listings, you may still win your claim for disability. The SSA will decide if, with your limited functioning, you are still able to do your past work. If the SSA decides you cannot do your past work, it will next look at your age, education, past work experience and your symptoms to determine if there is other work you could learn to do.
At this point, you should provide the SSA with a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment prepared by your doctor. The RFC must state how your endocrine disorder affects your ability to work. For instance, if your endocrine disorder causes significant fatigue, you may need to take unscheduled breaks throughout the day. This would make it difficult to perform a full-time job. If your endocrine disorder impairs your ability to remember directions, focus on a task or causes significant depression, your doctor should indicate this as well. In addition, medications used to treat endocrine disorders can have significant side effects that make working difficult. You should report all side effects to your doctor and to the SSA.
The SSA will be creating it own RFC assessment, but if you can submit an RFC completed by your treating doctor that shows you have substantial limitations (early on in the process, or before appeal), the SSA must take into account your doctor's opinion on your functional limitations. If your RFC demonstrated that there is no work you can do because of your endocrine disorder, your claim should be approved. Learn more about how an RFC can help you win your claim.