Is an Autoimmune Disease a Disability? Exploring Your Rights and Benefits

Some autoimmune diseases may be considered as disabilities, depending on their severity and how they affect daily life. You should always consult with your doctor or lawyer to find out if your specific condition qualifies as a disability and if you can receive benefits for it.

What is an Autoimmune Disease?

An autoimmune disease is a disorder of the immune system in which the body mistakenly attacks its own cells and tissues, instead of destroying foreign invaders. This often results in inflammation, pain and tissue damage. Some examples of autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

When it comes to whether an autoimmune disease should be classed as a disability, there are arguments for both sides. Some believe that autoimmune diseases should not be viewed as disabilities because they can often be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Others argue that autoimmune diseases can have a significant impact on an individual’s life, leading to emotional and physical distress, financial burden and social exclusion; all of which can come with other disabilities.

No matter what side one takes on this debate, it is important to understand how autoimmune diseases affect the body for proper diagnosis, treatment and care. To do this, it is essential to gain an overview of the immune system – something we will elaborate on in the following section.

Overview of the Immune System

The immune system is the body’s natural defence against foreign invaders including viruses, bacteria, and other harmful substances. It is made up of various cells, organs and chemical substances that work together to protect the body from occupational and environmental threats. The cells in the immune system keep a record of all foreign particles it has encountered before, allowing it to rapidly recognize and respond to potential invaders quickly.

However, when something goes wrong with the immune system and it mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body, it can lead to an autoimmune disease, where the person’s own immune response causes harm to their own tissues and organs. Debate exists over whether or not autoimmune diseases are considered a disability as some may cause physical impairments or require specialized care or treatment. Those who believe autoimmune diseases are disabilities argue that those affected can experience long-term health complications such as fatigue or chronic pain that limit their quality of life and could impact their ability to work and perform daily tasks. Others argue that autoimmune conditions aren’t always disabling since not everyone with an autoimmune condition will have severe medical issues or severe impairments that affect their lives significantly.

Now that we’ve discussed an overview of the immune system’s role in protecting our bodies, let’s move on to reviewing common types of autoimmune diseases in the next section.

  • According to the National Institutes of Health, it is estimated that up to 23.5 million Americans have an autoimmune disease.
  • A 2017 study estimated that approximately 8% of the US population has an autoimmune condition.
  • It is estimated that roughly 75% of those affected by autoimmune diseases are women.

Common Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases, or illnesses that occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues in the body, are some of the most common chronic conditions in the United States. Common autoimmune diseases include lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, Graves’ disease and type 1 diabetes. These diseases can cause chronic symptoms like fatigue, pain and damage to organs which can significantly affect a person’s daily life. There is much debate over whether autoimmune diseases should be classified as disabilities – each case must be evaluated on an individual basis.

Supporters of classifying autoimmune diseases as disabilities often cite studies like one from 2017 involving 1230 people with psoriasis; it concluded that those with the disease reported poorer quality of life than those without it. Pointing to this data, many argue that despite its physical invisibility, the psychological and emotional effects of autoimmune diseases can be disabling. As well, those who support such a classification contend that disability designation can provide additional resources to enable individuals living with autoimmune diseases to lead their fullest lives possible.

On the other hand, those against disability designation argue that there is insufficient evidence connecting autoimmune diseases and disability status to warrant official recognition. Furthermore, some suggest that while people living with these illnesses may face significant disruptions which require accommodation and special resources, they are capable of managing their conditions themselves. In addition, some argue that recognizing all autoimmune diseases as having disability status may potentially result in stigma for persons struggling with autoimmune disorders.

Ultimately, how autoimmune diseases are treated in terms of disability is highly debatable and individualized – each case needs to be individually considered with respect to both sides of the argument before making a definitive conclusion. As an understanding of these marked health issues continues to develop, new perspectives can arise about what constitutes a disability for those living with an autoimmune disorder. Before delving further into establishing rights and benefits for those afflicted with an autoimmune disease, it is important to understand how such conditions specifically impact persons struggling with them. The next section will discuss this topic in more detail.

How Does an Autoimmune Disease Impact Persons Struggling with It?

Living with an autoimmune disease can take an enormous toll on a person’s physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing. People struggling with an autoimmune disorder will likely experience fatigue as the body’s immune system works overtime trying to protect itself from foreign organisms. Not only can it be difficult for people to manage everyday tasks, but managing flare-ups or periods of unexpectedly severe symptoms can be unpredictable and frustrating.

On the other hand, certain treatments may help control symptoms and provide relief. Depending on the type of autoimmune disorder in question, individuals may be able to benefit from prescription medications, diets, or lifestyle changes that allow them to manage their condition better. However, treatments may also come with their own side effects or challenges. For example, some drugs used to treat autoimmune disorders can weaken the immune system which leaves a person vulnerable to other diseases and illnesses.

Autoimmune diseases often present unique obstacles for people living with them. Those living with an autoimmune disorder should seek out information and support resources that can help them adjust to any changes in their lifestyle that arise due to their diagnosis. Ultimately, each case is different and creating a tailored plan with healthcare professionals is important for individualized management of the disorder.

With all of these factors in mind, it is important to consider what the disability status of persons living with an autoimmune disorder would look like. This will be explored in more detail in the next section.

What is the Disability Status of Persons Living with an Autoimmune Disease?

The disability status of persons living with an Autoimmune Disease (AID) is a hotly debated topic. This is in part due to the wide range of symptoms, severities, and manifestations that AID can present. Some persons with AID may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits depending on their individual circumstances.

On one side of the debate, many doctors and advocates argue that AID sufferers should qualify as disabled and eligible for support services as prescribed by government regulations. As chronic and life-long diseases, AID must be properly managed, which can require a more complex level of care compared to an acute illness. Moreover, many people with AID are unable to work because they are hindered by persistent chronic pain or other debilitating symptoms, making it difficult or even impossible to continue their job duties and responsibilities.

On the other side of the debate, there are some who assert that AID sufferers do not automatically warrant disability status. While everyone’s experience varies based on their unique condition, individuals living with AID may have better health outcomes if they continue to work and maintain a sense of normalcy rather than seek out disability assistance.

Ultimately, each case is decided on its own merits by trained professionals. In order for persons living with an Autoimmune Disease to be deemed eligible for disability assistance, certain criteria must be met; this will be addressed in the following section.

What Are the Diagnosis Criteria for Disability Status?

The criteria for earning disability status can be complicated and vary from country to country. Generally speaking, you may qualify for a disability in three ways: medical evidence of a condition, functional ability limitations resulting from that condition, and duration of the impairment.

Understandably, some debate exists when it comes to those with autoimmune diseases receiving a disability status. On one hand, advocates argue that those living with autoimmune conditions should receive the same protections that other disabilities receive, because they experience long-term symptoms and impairments. On the other hand, opponents argue that not every autoimmune disease meets all criteria for qualifying as a disability, i.e., some do not always have lasting effects or certain restrictions on their daily activities.

Additionally, opponents argue that such designations limit individuals who are physically able to work but are diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder—in an effort to protect them, they can be deprived of the opportunity to compete in the job market against fully able-bodied people. The argument further claims that assigning protection based on diagnosis rather than capability places discriminatory barriers before individuals with visible differences who in fact are more than capable of succeeding at their desired jobs.

Finally, some argue that there is a concerning lack of reliable information about mitigating treatments for many autoimmune diseases with high variation in individual response to treatments. Without this knowledge, people who potentially experience manageable levels of impairment may be given protection and benefits that they wouldn’t need or utilise if they had access to better treatments; while those in greater need of assistance can easily fall through the cracks and miss out when they should benefit from extra support.

Ultimately, determining eligibility for disability status based on an autoimmune disease is complicated and many factors must be taken into consideration. As most countries strive for fairness in providing necessary services and resources for those living with disabilities, we look now to what laws and regulations provide protection for those with autoimmune disease.

What Laws and Regulations Provide Disability Protection for People with Autoimmune Disease?

People with autoimmune diseases, like any other people with disabilities, are protected by both federal and state laws in the United States. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 provides broad protection from discrimination and requires employers to provide accommodation for qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA also prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

In addition to the general protections provided by the ADA, which applies to all types of disability, several laws have been created specifically for those who live with an autoimmune disease. This includes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodations for Employees with Autoimmune Disorders and their Family Members. This document outlines what constitutes a reasonable accommodation in the workplace for employees who have been diagnosed with or are experiencing symptoms due to an autoimmune disorder.

The EEOC enforces Title I of the ADA, which makes it illegal to discriminate against individuals with disabilities in the workplace, including those with autoimmune diseases. This includes denying hiring opportunities or promotions based on a disability, as well as discriminating against current employees due to their disability-related medical conditions.

On the other hand, there is also debate over whether employers can legally refuse to hire someone based on his or her health history if it could be considered a risk factor for developing an autoimmune disease in the future. While it is not outright illegal for employers to disqualify job applicants due to health risks associated with their past or current medical condition or diagnosis, these actions should still be taken carefully and discussed thoroughly amongst legal counsel.

The next section will look at workplace discrimination protection specifically aimed at those living with an autoimmune disorder and how it affects job opportunities.

Workplace Discrimination Protection

In the U.S., workplace legal discrimination protections exist at both the state and federal levels for individuals with an autoimmune disorder. This ensures their right to work without fear of being treated unfairly or illegally due to their disability status.

At the federal level, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with any physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more of the major life activities, including employees, applicants, and job candidates who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune health condition so long as the individual can meet all other job qualifications required by law. The ADA also prohibits covered employers from subjecting those individuals to discrimination on the basis of their medical condition, such as firing them because of it or refusing to hire them.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is another important federal law related to this issue. It applies to any employer that receives federal funds, regardless of its size. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are eligible for accommodations due to a disability. While not every type of accommodation will be available under this law, employers must make reasonable adjustments in order to give everyone a fair opportunity to compete for jobs and advance in their career.

It is important to note that while both of these laws provide workplace protection against discrimination, they do not guarantee employment. Employers are nonetheless obligated to evaluate all candidates objectively and fairly based on their capabilities and qualifications rather than their medical condition.

For those at the state level, there may be additional legal avenues available for individuals with an autoimmune disorder who experience workplace discrimination. State anti‐discrimination laws may offer even greater employee rights above and beyond what is provided by federal protections. For example, many states provide single-injury protections that are not covered by federal law and some have less restrictive definitions of disability than the ADA does.

It is true that despite existing anti-discrimination legislation, some people living with an autoimmune disorder still fall victim to illegal workplace discrimination practices out of ignorance regarding their rights or lack of awareness about disability-related laws. As such it is important to understand one’s rights as an employee with a disability under local, state and federal law if you think you might be experiencing discrimination in the workplace due to an autoimmune condition.

Leading into the next section: Benefits and programs created specifically for individuals with an autoimmune disorder can play a key role in easing financial strain and providing necessary care. Next we will explore all existing benefits programs available for those affected by an autoimmune disease.

Benefits and Programs

People with an autoimmune disease may have access to numerous benefits and programs tailored to offering them support. These can include making it easier to find employment, having access to a health insurance plan that covers their healthcare needs, and providing them with financial assistance.

Some programs and benefits designed for those with chronic illnesses focus primarily on providing education and training. This allows those affected by autoimmune diseases to learn more about how to manage their condition, as well as find employment opportunities that can accommodate their disability as they look to remain financially independent. Other programs may provide financial assistance, in the form of grants or scholarships, to help those affected by an autoimmune disease meet their medical expenses.

It’s important to note that each program and benefit available has its own criteria for eligibility, meaning some will not be accessible for all individuals struggling with an autoimmune disease. Those seeking to take advantage of these services should do extensive research in order to understand which ones are geared towards them specifically.

The debate over whether an autoimmune disease is officially considered a disability continues; however, it is clear that many programs and benefits exist to offer support for people suffering from these conditions. Whether someone suffering from an autoimmune disorder meets the criteria for disability status or not, it is beneficial for them to become familiar with the resources available and understand how they could potentially benefit from them.

In conclusion, there are many benefits and programs available for those suffering from an autoimmune disease, regardless of whether or not they receive an official disability designation. It is nevertheless important for patients to be aware of which resources they are eligible for in order to receive the assistance they need while living with a chronic illness. Moving forward, the next section will explore ways of tackling the conclusion of this article.


The answer to the question, “Is an autoimmune disease a disability?” is complex and multi-faceted, but the short answer is yes. An autoimmune disease may qualify as a disability due to its severity and long-term impact on an individual’s ability to function. Individuals with autoimmune diseases often face physical impairments and functional limitations that may entitle them to disability benefits through the Social Security Administration or other programs.

It is important for individuals to understand the legal implications of having an autoimmune condition and to make sure their rights are fully protected when seeking government benefits and services. With increasing numbers of people developing autoimmune disorders, it is essential for patients, families, and healthcare professionals to become more familiar with the laws regulating disability benefits and to advocate for those living with these conditions.

When it comes to understanding disability laws in general, there will always be an ongoing debate as to who actually qualifies for disability benefits or not. However, by focusing on the degree of functional impairment caused by an autoimmune disorder compared to other results-based medical diagnoses, like cancer or organ failure, the future may start looking brighter for those suffering from this condition, who could be able to prove they are truly disabled and deserve access to the same benefits given others.

Common Questions and Answers

How is an autoimmune disability classified and recognized?

An autoimmune disability is classified and recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that individuals who have an autoimmune disorder are covered by the law, and are protected from discrimination by employers, landlords, universities, and other public entities. Under the ADA, an individual must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities to qualify for disability benefits.

Autoimmune disorders qualify as disabilities because they often limit a person’s ability to perform major activities such as walking, working, caring for themselves, playing sports, or completing household tasks. The severity of these disabilities varies between individuals and can even change over time. Common symptoms of autoimmune diseases include fatigue, inflammation, joint pain or weakness, organ damage, skin rashes, and various neurological dysfunctions.

For an individual to be eligible for disability benefits related to their autoimmune disorder, detailed medical records must be provided to document their condition and its impacts on daily life. They may also need to provide evidence that clearly demonstrates how their autoimmune disability prevents them from doing certain activities that are essential to everyday life.

Are there certain criteria that need to be met for an autoimmune disease to be considered a disability?

Yes, there are certain criteria that need to be met for an autoimmune disease to be considered a disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers an individual to have a disability if they have an “impairment or combination of impairments” that “results in the inability to do any substantial gainful activity” and is “expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months” or will result in death. Additionally, the impairment must limit their ability to execute basic work-related activities such as lifting, grasping, kneeling, standing concentrating and interacting with others.

For autoimmune diseases, the SSA requires more detailed proof including medical reports, diagnostic tests, and doctor’s notes. It also requires evidence that supports how the disability is having a major impact on daily life. This could include information about impaired joint mobility, pain levels, fatigue, difficulty walking or exercise intolerance. All documents must also demonstrate that these limitations will not improve given time or medical intervention.

It is important to note that even if certain criteria is met and an autoimmune disease is considered a disability by the SSA, it does not guarantee any aid or money from the government. However knowing what criteria needs to be met and understanding your rights can help you access the necessary benefits should you choose to pursue them.

What kind of financial assistance is available for people with an autoimmune disability?

People with an autoimmune disability may qualify for financial assistance through various federal and state programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicaid. Additionally, there are some private organizations that provide financial support to those with an autoimmune disability.

For instance, The Immune Deficiency Foundation offers grants to people with a primary immunodeficiency disorder in order to cover medical expenses not covered under other insurance plans. Additionally, PAN Foundation offers co-payment and premium assistance for those with an autoimmune disorder who cannot afford the costs of their treatment. Other organizations such as National Organization for Rare Disorders also provide grants for individuals with rare autoimmune diseases.

To be eligible for any kind of financial assistance, it is important that individuals have a diagnosis from a qualified health care professional and must meet income requirements associated with the program. It is vital to understand the eligibility criteria for each program before applying. Each program has different conditions regarding the types of evidence required to prove a disability has been present before applying.

It is important to note that most forms of financial assistance require that applications be made in person or by mail so they can be processed more quickly. Additionally, you may need to fill out multiple applications depending on what type of assistance you are seeking. It may also be helpful to contact your local government office or disability organization to inquire about additional resources and programs that may be available.

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