Can I Get Disability Benefits for Hashimoto's Disease?

You might qualify for Social Security disability if your Hashimoto’s disease can’t be controlled with treatment, but it isn’t easy.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Hashimoto's disease is the most common form of hypothyroidism in North America, and it most often affects women. Hypothyroidism means your thyroid gland isn't producing enough of the hormones needed to regulate your body's processes.

If untreated, or if treatment isn't effective, Hashimoto's disease can cause complications that make it difficult to do strenuous activities. This thyroid disease can damage other body systems (like your heart), which can jeopardize your health and make it difficult for you to work. Fortunately, the right treatment can usually get Hashimoto's disease under control.

What Is Hashimoto's Disease?

Hashimoto's disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. Your thyroid gland sits in the front of your neck and makes hormones that control your metabolism, including heart rate and how quickly your body converts food to energy. If you have Hashimoto's disease, your thyroid doesn't produce enough of these critical thyroid hormones.

The symptoms of Hashimoto's disease include goiters (enlargements of the thyroid gland) and other symptoms of hypothyroidism, including:

  • fatigue
  • cramps
  • slowed heart rate
  • weight gain, and
  • mental sluggishness.

Treatment for individuals with Hashimoto's disease usually includes the use of thyroid hormones and other medications to elevate thyroid hormone levels in the blood. Goiters can be surgically removed, but are often treated by taking thyroid hormones or iodine supplements.

Is Hashimoto's a Disability?

Hashimoto's disease can often be well controlled with medication. Replacing the hormones your thyroid can no longer produce (usually with levothyroxine) can restore a normal metabolism. If you respond well to treatment for Hashimoto's, you'll likely be able to continue working. And if you can work, you can't get disability.

But Hashimoto's disease can have side effects that can be disabling. If you have side effects from Hashimoto's disease and they're severe enough to meet the requirements of a listing or make it impossible for you to do any kind of work, you might qualify for disability benefits.

Can Your Qualify for Disability With Hashimoto's Disease?

Social Security has created a list of impairments (called the Blue Book) that the agency considers serious enough to be disabling—if you meet the requirements of the listing. Hashimoto's disease and other thyroid conditions are endocrine disorders, and Social Security includes endocrine disorders in the listing of impairments (listing 9.0).

But unlike most listed impairments, Social Security doesn't evaluate the effects of thyroid disorders like Hashimoto's disease under the endocrine disorders listing. Social Security evaluates the impairments that result from Hashimoto's disease under various other body part listings, since thyroid disorders can cause a variety of complications in other parts of your body.

How to Meet a Listing With Hashimoto's Disease

Social Security evaluates the damage Hashimoto's disease has done to your body instead of the disease itself. Some of the side effects of hypothyroid conditions (like Hashimoto's disease) can meet the requirements of their respective listings. For example, Hashimoto's disease can affect your:

The side effects of Hashimoto's and other hypothyroid conditions can also cause mental disorders like:

The only way to meet a listing when you have Hashimoto's disease is to meet the listing for the damage caused by the disease.

Hashimoto's Disease and Your Residual Functional Capacity

Even if your side effects of Hashimoto's disease and the damage it's done to your body don't match a listing, you might still be able to qualify for disability. To determine your eligibility for benefits, Social Security must consider how your impairments affect your ability to function day-to-day and hold down a job.

Social Security will evaluate your condition (based on the information in your medical file) and determine your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is a measure of the kind of work (medium, light, or sedentary) you can do, given the limitations you have. If you have Hashimoto's disease that doesn't respond well to treatment, fatigue or weakness might prevent you from being able to stand on your feet all day. So your RFC might be for sedentary work, especially if you have other serious medical conditions. Because Social Security must consider all your impairments, it's critical that you make sure all your issues—even those not related to Hashimoto's disease—are documented in your medical records.

Older workers have a better chance of getting disability benefits than younger workers, thanks to Social Security's medical-vocational grid rules. If Social Security determines that, given your RFC, age, education, and job skills, there's no kind of work you could do, you could qualify for disability benefits.

How to Apply for Disability for Hashimoto's Disease

If you can't work because of Hashimoto's disease and its side effects, you can apply for Social Security disability benefits. The application process isn't terribly difficult, but it does require a lot of information—including personal, employment, and medical information.

To get your application started, you can call Social Security's toll-free number 800-772-1213 (TTY: 800-325-0778) to make an appointment to apply by phone. Or, contact your local Social Security office for an appointment to apply in person.

You also have the option to apply online. This is the fastest and most convenient way to apply for benefits, since you can access the online application from wherever you are and at a time that works for you. You can also pause the online application process as often as you need to.

Don't delay applying for disability benefits because you don't have all your records or you're missing some documents. Social Security will help you gather anything you don't already have.

It generally takes several months to process your Social Security disability application. And most applicants have to appeal before winning disability benefits (which adds several more months to the process). Even if Social Security approves your claim right away, there's a five-month waiting period before your benefits begin.

Updated September 23, 2022

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