Endometriosis is a condition that affects women during their reproductive years. The disease causes tissue that's similar to the lining of the uterus (called "endometrial cells") to grow outside the uterus, causing severe discomfort. Over 80 million women have endometriosis worldwide. Most are between 20 and 40 years old.
Endometriosis usually causes severe pain, especially during menstruation, making it hard for some sufferers to work regularly. Although treatments like surgery and medication can ease some of the symptoms of endometriosis, there's no cure.
But can you qualify for Social Security disability benefits because of your endometriosis? Sometimes, but it's not easy. Read on to learn what it takes to qualify for disability benefits for this painful condition.
Women who have endometriosis can experience internal bleeding and inflammation. And the disease can cause scar tissue to form. But the primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, especially during:
Other common symptoms include abdominal bloating and nausea. And about 40% of all endometriosis patients become infertile (although the infertility can often be treated with surgery and hormone therapy).
Many women with endometriosis live with persistent fatigue. Some also suffer from depression or anxiety.
Although endometriosis mainly affects the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, endometrial cells can grow on or in other organs like your:
In rare cases, endometrial cells can be found outside the abdomen, affecting the eyes, lungs, or in extremely rare cases, the brain (called "cerebral endometriosis").
Depending on your symptoms and the severity of your pain, endometriosis might qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And under the ADA, you'd be entitled to reasonable accommodations at work, which might include a flexible schedule or extra time off to deal with your symptoms. (Learn more about your right to reasonable accommodations.)
But the Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn't include endometriosis among the list of conditions that can automatically qualify as disabilities. Fortunately, your medical condition doesn't have to be listed for Social Security to consider you disabled.
Social Security will consider two things when determining if you qualify for SSDI (Social Security disability insurance) or SSI (Supplemental Security Incom) disability benefits:
Even if you have severe complications, you can't meet a listing because endometriosis isn't a listed condition. But you might still qualify for Social Security disability if your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working (or, as Social Security calls it, doing "substantial gainful activity," or SGA).
If your endometriosis symptoms limit you so much that you can no longer do your job, Social Security will try to determine if there's any kind of job you can be expected to do. In addition to your medical records, Social Security will consider your:
Age can work against you here because Social Security considers younger workers (under 50) to be more adaptable than older workers. The idea is that it's easier for younger workers to shift to a new job. So, to get disability for your endometriosis, you'll need to show Social Security that you can't do even the most undemanding kind of work.
For example, let's say you've always worked on your feet, but standing for long periods worsens your pain so much that you can't do your job. Social Security will try to determine if you could still work if you switched to a desk job—regardless of whether or not you've ever worked in an office. Learn more about how Social Security decides if you can still work.
Also, note that Social Security must consider all your physical and mental impairments—including those unrelated to your endometriosis. And more significantly, Social Security must consider the combined effect of all your medical conditions.
For example, let's say you suffer from severe pain and persistent fatigue because of endometriosis, and you've been diagnosed with clinical depression that limits your ability to perform the activities of daily living. Your pain, fatigue, or depression might not be enough to qualify for disability when considered separately. But Social Security has to consider the combined effect of your pain, fatigue, and depression, which might be enough to qualify for benefits.
You can apply for Social Security disability benefits in a few different ways. The fastest way to get started is to use Social Security's online application. Another advantage to applying online is that you can do so at your convenience, pausing the process as often as needed.
You can also apply by phone by calling Social Security's national office at 800-722-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778). Or apply in person at your local Social Security field office. Both of these methods can involve long waits, but they offer you to chance to speak to a Social Security representative and ask questions during the process.
Winning a disability claim for endometriosis is an uphill battle, but you don't have to go it alone. You can get help with your claim from an experienced disability attorney or non-attorney representative. Learn more about how a lawyer can help with your disability claim.
Updated May 25, 2023