Endocrine System Disorders and Disability Benefits

Social Security evaluates endocrine disorders under which gland is causing the disorder.

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The endocrine system is responsible for regulating our body's functioning. Endocrine glands produce chemicals, called hormones, and release them into our bloodstream where they travel to different organs in the body. The key endocrine glands are the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland (which controls our growth and metabolism), the adrenal glands, the pancreas (which releases insulin to control our blood sugar level), and the pineal gland. Disorders can result if the level of hormones in our body is out of balance.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows you to apply for disability benefits based on endocrine system disorders if you have been diagnosed with a related medical condition and you have been unable to work for a year or more. You may be eligible for Social Security disability (SSDI/SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits if your glandular condition is severe enough.

To learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits, see Eligibility for Social Security Disability Benefits.

Meeting a Disability Listing

Social Security's Listing of Impairments (known as the "Blue Book") describes various medical conditions and the requirements needed to prove disability for each condition. Section 9.00 of the listing is devoted to endocrine disorders. However, because many endocrine disorders can be controlled with medication, the SSA evaluates endocrine disorders for disability only when the medication has failed to work and they have caused damage to other body systems. The SSA reviews will your medical evidence to determine whether you meet a disability listing under another body system because of damage caused by an endocrine disorder.

Check out our section on Medical Eligibility for SSDI & SSI for more in depth information.

Pituitary Gland Disorders

If the pituitary gland releases too many hormones and affects the functioning of the kidneys, it can lead to diabetes insipidus. Symptoms include dehydration and excessive thirst. The SSA would evaluate diabetes insipidus under Listing 6.00, Genitourinary Impairments.

Thyroid Gland Disorders

The following conditions can be caused by an imbalance of the thyroid gland.

  • Arrhythmia (an irregular heart beat) and other cardiac disorders under Listing 4.00, Cardiovascular Disorders. You should provide evidence such as an ECG (electrocardiogram), an exercise tolerance test, and a heart x-ray. 
  • Weight loss under Listing 5.08, Weight Loss Due to Digestive Order. You would need to show a body mass index (BMI) of less than 17.50 during at least two visits within a 6-month period, despite treatment.
  • Stroke under Listing 11.00, Neurological Disorders. You would need to show difficulties with your speech or communication, or interference with your ability to walk or use your hands/arms. 
  • Mood disorders, anxiety, and inability to concentrate under Listing 12.00, Mental Disorders. You should provide evidence including psychological testing and mental status examinations.

Parathyroid Gland Disorders

The parathyroid gland can affect the level of calcium in the body. An improper calcium level can lead to the following disorders.

  • Osteoporosis and bone fractures under Listing 1.00, Musculoskeletal System. You should provide evidence using an x-ray or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). A fracture must restrict your ability to walk effectively or use your arms.
  • Eye cataracts under Listing 2.00, Special Senses and Speech. You would need to provide evidence of diminished visual acuity (ability to do fine work) or a limited field of vision.
  • Kidney system failure under Listing 6.00, Genitourinary Disorders. You should provide laboratory findings and medical evidence showing deterioration in your kidneys over a period of time. 
  • Tetany (involuntary cramping of your muscles) and muscle spasms under Listing 11.00,  Neurological Disorders. You would need to show difficulties with your ability to walk or use your hands/arms. 

Adrenal Gland Disorders

The adrenal gland can affect your blood pressure, your level of bone calcium, your metabolism, and your ability to think clearly. The following disorders can result from the adrenal gland:

  • Osteoporosis and bone fractures under Listing 1.00 (see above).
  • Hypertension that causes heart failure or reoccurring arrhythmias under Listing 4.00 (see above).
  • Cushing syndrome.
  • Weight loss under Listing 5.08 (see above).
  • Mood disorders under Listing 12.00 (see above).

Pancreatic Gland Disorders

Diabetes is evaluated under pancreatic gland disorders. Hyperglycemia (high levels of glucose in the blood) and hypoglycemia (low levels of glucose in the blood) can cause the following conditions:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias under Listing 4.00 (see above).
  • Intestinal necrosis (damage to the intestine due to a lack of blood supply) under Listing 5.00, Digestive System. You should provide evidence of any operations, an x-ray or MRI, and any other laboratory testing. 
  • Seizures under Listing 11.00, Neurological Disorders. You would need to provide evidence documenting the frequency of your seizures and whether this condition results in a loss of consciousness.
  • Mood or eating disorders under Listing 12.00 (see above). 
  • Amputation of an extremity under Listing 1.05, Amputations.
  • Diabetic retinopathy under Listing 2.00, Special Senses and Speech.
  • Coronary artery disease and vascular disease under Listing 4.00 (see above).
  • Diabetic gastroparesis (food stays too long in your stomach due to nerve damage) under Listing 5.00, Digestive System. You should provide an x-ray, an MRI, and any other clinical evidence.
  • Diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease) under Listing 6.06, Nephrotic Syndrome. You would need to provide evidence of severe edema (swelling) for a three-month period despite therapy and laboratory findings of your protein levels.
  • Fungal and bacterial skin infections under 8.04, Skin Disorders. You would need to show ulcerating skin lesions that persist for three months despite treatment, and which interfere with your ability to walk or use your hands.
  • Diabetic neuropathies (nerve damage) under Listing 11.04, Central nervous system vascular accident. You would need to show significant problems with the use of two of your extremities despite treatment. 
  • Thinking difficulties, depression, and anxiety under Listing 12.00 (see above).

Assessing Your Residual Functional Capacity

If you suffer from an endocrine system disorder, but your condition is not severe enough to meet one of the disability listings, above, then you can still be found disabled based upon your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is the most you can do while in a work setting. It can be designated as sedentary, light, medium, or heavy work.

The SSA will consider your medical history, statements from your family and friends, and your own statements in determining your RFC, but most important is a detailed opinion from your doctor on what you can and cannot do. The SSA wants to know if you can do the following types of work tasks: how long you can sit, stand, and walk; how well you can use your arms and hands; how well you can bend and walk up stairs; how well you can interact with the public and coworkers; and how well you can follow instructions and keep on pace during the workday. 

If you suffer from diabetes and have difficulty controlling your blood glucose, then you might suffer from fatigue, irritability, and trouble concentrating. Your RFC could look like the following: limited to sedentary work, moderately restricted in working with others, and limited to simple instructions. This RFC would limit you from most, but not all jobs. To be found disabled, usually you must be unable perform any work. However, if you are over age 50, it can be easier to be found disabled even if you can perform up to sedentary or light work.

If your disorder is especially severe and limits your ability to concentrate on most tasks, or if you have extreme fatigue, then you would likely be found disabled because of these non-exertional limitations. To learn more about the process for determining a disability, and how to better your odds of winning your claim, check out our section on How Social Security Determines if You Are Disabled.

by: Suzanne Gaffke

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