by Mark Steele and Denise Roguz
Mark Steel is a ThyroidChange Guest Writer and author with the Disability Benefits Center and Denise Roguz is the Co-Founder of ThyroidChange who was disabled by her condition for a time and was awarded Social Security Disability.
To qualify for disability benefits, you must have a condition that is likely to leave you disabled for 12 or more months. To have a successful claim and be awarded benefits, you will need to provide hard medical evidence and supporting documentation. But don't be discouraged...
Thyroid Gland Disorders and Disability
First things first, let's identify a thyroid disorder. There are numerous thyroid disorders and many of them can affect your life negatively.
As a gland in the endocrine system, the thyroid is located in the neck and produces thyroid hormones that are mainly responsible for metabolism in the body. Because of this, thyroid hormone is needed for every cell of the body and affects many body systems.
When the thyroid grows too big, or if there is an overproduction or an underproduction of thyroid hormones, a disorder or autoimmune disease (ie. Hashimoto’s or Graves’) develops.
If the thyroid enlarges, it can form a goiter. Goiters don’t always require surgical intervention unless breathing and/or swallowing is affected.
And thyroid cancer occurs when certain cells in the thyroid undergo genetic changes or mutations which allow the cancer cells to grow and multiply.
That is the simplified version. There is plenty of information on this site about thyroid conditions, appropriate testing, optimal lab results, treatment options, and how to find a good doctor, so please visit Begin Here for more information on those topics.
The SSA Blue Book
Wait...There Are Listings for a Thyroid Condition?
While many thyroid conditions are controlled by medication, there are some that are more challenging to manage, and they can have life-altering impairments. We know that thyroid disease can be dreadful and disabling for many, but you will have to prove your condition to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The SSA uses a medical guide, the Blue Book, to determine if a claimant qualifies for disability benefits.
We know that thyroid disease can cause depression, anxiety, heart issues, strokes, and uncontrolled or unintended weight gain or weight loss and many other symptoms.
What many patients don’t know is that there are several listings in the Blue Book that may apply to thyroid disorders. Some of the listings that may apply to your thyroid condition are the following:
- Listing 13.09 – Malignant Neoplastic Diseases – Thyroid – which addresses thyroid cancer
- Listing 5.08 – Digestive Systems – applies to unintentional weight loss
- Listing 4.00 – Cardiovascular System – applies to thyroid-related heart conditions
- Listing 11.0 – Mental Functioning – applies to brain fog and cognition associated with thyroid disease.
- Listing 11.04 – Central Nervous System Vascular Accidents – applies to strokes caused by complication of thyroid disease
- Listing 12.04 and 12.05 – Mental Disorders – applies to depression, anxiety, bi-polar and obsessive-compulsive disorder associated with thyroid disease
What the Heck Is Medical Vocational Allowance
and an RFC Form?
If you do not qualify using a Blue Book listing or if you don’t find your specific listing, don't worry. You can still be approved through a medical vocational allowance. Most applicants are approved through this method.
This approach considers your medical conditions, your age, your work history, your transferrable skills, and your educational background.
Using this process, a residual functional capacity (RFC) form is completed which details your restrictions and limitations and what you can and cannot do. Using the RFC form, the SSA will determine what kind of work – if any – you can do.
The RFC form, for instance, may indicate that because of fatigue, muscle aches, and pain that you are unable to stand longer than an hour; or dizziness and weakness may keep you from bending over or reaching.
The RFC form is very detailed, and if your physician will complete an RFC, that could be helpful to your claim.
Since physicians are often quite busy and because the RFC form is detailed and lengthy, it might be wise to ask your physician if you can complete it for him/her and then have the physician add any amendments with diagnostic codes. From there, the physician can sign it and it can be sent in with your application.
Should I Get A SS Disability Attorney?
Since about 60-70% of disability applicants are denied the first time around, don’t get discouraged.
This is why it can be helpful to find a good disability attorney to help guide you through the process, complete the necessary forms for you, and meet necessary deadlines.
Typically, a disability attorney is paid only if you are successful in obtaining Social Security Disability benefits. Most attorneys offer a free consultation and only charge a percentage of the back pay if you are awarded disability.
Additionally, most attorneys can do necessary consults by phone with you or with an elected caretaker which is helpful when the physical condition or cognitive impairment is that severe.
Ask family, friends, or others in your local community, or local patient support groups for their recommendations.
Summary of Tips and Other Suggestions
- Create a budget of your current living and medical expenses.
- Consider a Social Security Disability attorney.
- Review the Social Security Blue Book Listing of impairments to find your specific impairments.
- Complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Form and have your doctor add amendments to it and have him/her sign it.
- Have your doctor write a statement supporting your disability.
- Start gathering all medical records, notes, and diagnostics codes from your current and previous doctors.
- Have your employers or caregivers write a supportive statement or letter.
- Gather any other witness letters in support of your disability.
- Provide as much detail as possible about your condition on the application regarding your symptoms and how your symptoms impair your ability to work.
- Begin the process early. Be patient since receiving a hearing date takes time and you may be denied the first time around.
- Don’t get discouraged. Many applicants are awarded the second time around.
How Should I Begin?
If you are unable to work because of a thyroid condition, you can start the disability application online with the Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213. You will need supporting medical documentation to get your claim on the right track.
Or, you can begin by completing the Qualification Survey with the Disability Benefits Center and someone will reach out to you with more information or with assistance to help you find an attorney.
Try calling social security attorneys in your area to discuss your particular situation. Ask for their success rate. Many provide free consultations and are a wealth of information.
Resources That Can Help
About Thyroid Disease
The Application Process:
The SSA Blue Book:
Description of the Residual Functional Capacity Form (RFC Form)
Residual Functional Capacity Form (RFC Form)
Thyroid Cancer and Social Security Disability
Compassionate Allowance Program and Thyroid Cancer