Facts about Hyperthyroidism and Filing for Disability
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.
Facts about the condition
1. Hyperthyroidism means the thyroid gland is overactive, a condition in which the gland produces too much of its hormones for the body's needs. This drastically increases the rate of metabolism, resulting in rapid weight loss, abnormal heartbeat (racing pulse, irregular beat or palpitations), sweating, nervousness and anxiety, and irritability.
2. The thyroid gland, located at the front base of the neck, produces hormones that controls body temperature and the rate the body uses food energy, influences heart rate, and influences regulation of protein production and the amount of calcium in the blood.
3. Older adults are less likely to have symptoms, or to have minimal symptoms. Typically minor symptoms in older adults include increased heart rate, heat sensitivity, and becoming overly tired during regular daily activities.
4. Medications used for high blood pressure (beta blockers), which are primarily used among older adults, may result in masking the already minimal symptoms of the condition and further delaying a diagnosis.
5. Hyperthyroidism can occur for several different reasons. The most common is Grave's disease. an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and results in the gland overproducing to compensate.
6. Another condition, Plummer's disease (also called toxic adenoma or toxic multinodular goiter), comes from adenomas that form as a blocked off part of the thyroid gland. Some adenomas may form noncancerous lumps, cause swelling of the thyroid, and produce too much hormone.
7. Thyroiditis may also occur, which causes the gland to swell and leak stored hormones into the blood stream. Thyroiditis can be painful, but usually is not. Pregnancy is one cause of thyroiditis.
8. Testing for hyperthyroidism is simple and involves a blood sample. Once the sample confirms hyperthyroidism, imaging tests can be performed to help determine what is causing the overproduction of hormones and to help decide how to best treat the problem.
9. Treatment involves oral medications. In some cases the thyroid gland may be partially or fully removed.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits 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 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.
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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