Disability and Addison's Disease: Filing for Social Security Benefits

Addison's disease can lead to serious heart and digestive problems, which can qualify for disability benefits.

By , J.D. · Albany Law School

When someone has Addison's disease, their adrenal glands don't produce enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Addison's disease can be disabling when it isn't treated properly.

The hormones affected by Addison's disease have several important purposes, including:

  • helping maintain proper blood sugar levels
  • helping maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
  • decreasing the immune response
  • helping the body respond to stress
  • regulating sodium and potassium levels, and
  • controlling sexual development and sex drive.

(Another disease affecting the adrenal glands and cortisol levels is Cushing syndrome.)

Potentially Disabling Symptoms of Addison's Disease

Because the hormones produced by your adrenal glands are critical to maintaining several bodily functions, the symptoms of Addison's disease can vary widely. Some can be relatively mild, while others can be life-threatening. Addison's symptoms can include:

  • changes in blood pressure or heart rate
  • extreme weakness and fatigue
  • chronic diarrhea and unintentional weight loss
  • anxiety or change in mood and personality
  • joint and muscle pain
  • difficulty standing, and
  • slow, sluggish movements.

Complications can also arise from Addison's disease, including diabetes, osteoporosis, and hypertension.

Can I Get Disability Benefits for Addison's Disease?

If your Addison's disease can be successfully treated with long-term hormone replacements, you're unlikely to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. But if your Addison's keeps you from working, you might qualify. Specifically, there are two ways you could qualify for Social Security disability benefits:

  • you meet the requirements of a disability listing in the Social Security Blue Book, or
  • you can prove that you're unable to work because of the limitations caused by Addison's disease.

Meeting a Disability Listing

Addison's disease is considered under the disability listing for endocrine disorders because it's a type of adrenal gland disorder. The listing for endocrine disorders is a bit different than other disability listings, which include specific impairment requirements to qualify for disability. Instead, the endocrine disorder listing refers to other disability listings for other major body systems that are affected by the disorder.

Depending on the symptoms that are caused by your Addison's, you might meet the qualifications of one or more of these listings:

Additionally, sometimes Addison's disease is caused by long-term infections, such as tuberculosis or HIV. If a long-term infection is the cause of your Addison's disease, you might qualify for Social Security disability under the listing for that long-term infection.

Having Limited Ability to Work

If your condition doesn't meet the requirements of one of the above listings, you might still qualify for disability benefits if Social Security determines that you can't work. Social Security will assess your physical and mental limitations using a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form to determine if you should be able to work despite the symptoms of Addison's disease.

Physical abilities that the SSA evaluates in creating your RFC include sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling. Those who are suffering from Addison's disease often have multiple physical impairments that prevent them from doing any type of work, including heart ailments, extreme weakness, joint and muscle pain, difficulty walking, and fatigue. All of your difficulties should be included in your RFC.

Mental abilities that Social Security evaluates in creating your RFC include your ability to focus and whether you are able to respond appropriately to supervision, your co-workers, and work pressures in a work setting. For those with Addison's disease, anxiety and mood and personality changes can make performing any job difficult.

After creating your RFC, Social Security uses a formula to evaluate your capacity to work based on your:

  • RFC
  • age
  • education, and
  • work experience (job skills).

Social Security will consider all of your impairments together when deciding if there's any kind of work you can still do. For more information, see our section on how Social Security uses RFCs to decide if you're disabled.

How to Apply for Disability Benefits for Addison's Disease

You can apply for disability benefits for Addison's disease in person at your local Social Security office. But you'll need to call for an appointment to ensure a representative is available to help you with the application. If you prefer, you can also apply by phone at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) or fill out the online application.

Social Security will also need you to fill out a medical release form. That allows the agency to gather your medical records. But you can speed up the application process by submitting any medical records you have on hand.

Learn more about the medical evidence you'll need to prove your disability case.
Updated November 15, 2022

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