Hashimoto's Disease and Filing for Disability

Hashimoto's disease is considered a valid medical condition to list on your application for disability with Social Security. This condition falls under the Endocrine System and were it listed in the SSA Blue Book listings it would fall under section 9.00 Endocrine System- Adult.

Endocrine system impairments are defined by the Social Security Administration as disorders of the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. As well as hyperglycemia, diabetes mellitus and other pancreatic gland disorders, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), chronic hyperglycemia, and hypoglycemia.

While there is an impairment listing in the SSA Blue Book, it does not provide any evaluation standards but refers the evaluation to other impairment listings. This is because endocrine orders can significantly affect other body systems such as the kidneys, eyes, and brain. Basically, your endocrine disorder is evaluated in terms of the body systems that are affected. If your endocrine disorder meets the criteria in the Section of the Blue Book under which it is evaluated, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

Being approved other than by the listings

If your impairment(s) does not meet or medically equal one of the listings, you can still be approved for disability if you can show that the overall effects of your endocrine disorder make it unreasonable for you to continue working. Your medical records and work history may show you do not have the residual functional capacity to work at a substantial and gainful level and you may granted what is called a medical vocational allowance.

This can be accomplished by the information contained in your medical records, along with the information contained in your vocational work history; more specificially, what types of work you have done, the functional requirements of each job, as well as the skills you possess that might allow you to transition into other kinds of work. If the disabiltiy examiner finds tht you are unable to do any of your past work or other kinds of work, you may be approved through a medical vocational allowance.

Qualifying for disability benefits with Hashimoto's

Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits based on Hashimoto's (or any condition) will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.

This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.

In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.

Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).

Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?

There are several reasons but here are just two:

1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.

Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and disability attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.

2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.

Facts about Hashimoto's disease

1) Hashimoto's disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or Hashimoto's thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland. In response, the follicles around the thyroid gland are slowly damaged, often resulting in hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

2) The disease was named after Hakaru Hashimoto, a Japanese physician that first explained the disease in 1912. When the disease turns into mania, it is known as Prasad's syndrome.

3) Hashimoto's disease is thought to affect nearly 1-2 out of every 1000 people in the United States. It is single-handedly the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States.

4) Hashimoto's disease is genetic, associated with the genes CTLA-4 and HLA-DR5, and often runs in families.

5) Hashimoto's disease occurs most often between the ages of 45 and 65 years old, and affects women twice as often as men. It can also affect adolescents and children, resulting in disrupted growth.

6) Patients with chromosomal disorders such as Klinefelter's syndromes, Down's syndrome and Turner syndrome, have an increased chance of developing Hashimoto's disease.

7) Those with Hashimoto's disease are sometimes misdiagnosed as having cyclothymia, premenstrual syndrome, depression, anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder due to the symptoms of the disease, which can vary from high cholesterol, migraines, depression, fatigue and weight gain, to mania, panic attacks, muscle weakness, sensitivity to cold, hair loss and reactive hypoglycemia.

8) Testing to determine whether symptoms are Hashimoto's disease include testing for levels of anti-thyroid antibodies and thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) through hormone and antibody tests.

9) Left untreated Hashimoto's disease can lead to complications such as heart disease, goiter, mental health issues such as depression, decreased libido, myxedema, and birth defects such as cleft palate.

10) Hashimoto's disease is usually a lifelong disease, requiring lifelong treatment of hormone replacement therapy, including Armour or levothyroxine.

These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.

  • How to apply for disability and the information that Social Security needs

  • Who will qualify for disability and what qualifying is based on

  • Requirements for disability - Qualifications Criteria for SSD and SSI

  • How to Prove you are disabled and win your disability benefits

  • About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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