If you have Sjögren's syndrome and your symptoms are severe enough that they prevent you from working, you may be able to receive disability benefits. However, for Sjögren's syndrome to qualify for disability, you must meet the eligibility requirements laid out by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
We'll walk you through what those requirements are, so you understand how your Sjögren's syndrome could qualify for disability and can better determine what steps you should consider taking next.
What is Sjögren’s syndrome?
Sjögren's syndrome, also known as Sjögren’s disease, is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva.
This immune system disorder can also impact the nervous system and internal organs, including the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Many people with Sjögren’s syndrome have other autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
2 Common types of Sjögren's syndrome
There are two main types of Sjögren's syndrome:
- Primary form: With primary form, you have Sjögren's syndrome without another rheumatic disease.
- Secondary form: With secondary form, you have another rheumatic disease alongside Sjögren's syndrome.
Is Sjögren's syndrome a disability?
Yes, the SSA considers Sjögren's syndrome a disability. You may be able to receive Social Security benefits if you have this autoimmune disorder. To qualify, you will need to prove that you're unable to work because of your Sjögren's syndrome.
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) also considers Sjögren's syndrome a disability if the condition is substantially limiting. The ADA, signed into law in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
How the SSA defines Sjögren's syndrome
Sjögren's syndrome is listed in the SSA's Blue Book in Section 14.10, under Autoimmune Disorders. Also known as Sjögren's disease or simply Sjögren's, this chronic disorder occurs when the immune system attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva.
To determine eligibility for benefits, the SSA evaluates the body system or organ impacted by Sjögren’s syndrome.
Sjögren’s disease symptoms
People with Sjögren’s syndrome may experience the following symptoms:
- Dry eyes, which can impact vision, cause sensitivity to bright light, and lead to irritated, itchy eyelids
- Dry mouth, which can lead to difficulty swallowing, speaking, and tasting, as well as the development of cavities and mouth infections
- Dryness in other areas, such as the nose, throat, skin, joints, or organs
- Fatigue or malaise
Can you get disability for Sjögren's syndrome?
Yes, you can get disability for Sjögren's syndrome. However, to qualify, you will need to demonstrate that your symptoms stemming from Sjögren's syndrome are so severe that you're unable to work because of them.
As mentioned, it's common for individuals with Sjögren's syndrome to have another autoimmune condition. Note that it's easier to qualify for disability benefits if you apply with more than one qualifying condition.
Other qualifying conditions that you may have alongside Sjögren's syndrome could include:
You can read more about conditions that occur alongside Sjögren's syndrome and others in our main guide on conditions that qualify for disability.
Criteria for getting disability with Sjögren's syndrome
Getting disability benefits for Sjögren's syndrome requires proving to the SSA that your symptoms are so severe that you are unable to work. You must provide medical documentation to make your case, which generally requires working with a rheumatologist and undergoing appropriate testing. Per the SSA, medical evidence will typically show that your disease satisfies its criteria.
For Sjögren's syndrome to qualify, you must meet one of the following criteria, as outlined by the SSA in its Blue Book:
Your condition involves two or more organs or body systems, with one of those organs or systems at least moderately impacted by your Sjögren's syndrome. Further, you must have at least two constitutional signs or symptoms of Sjögren's syndrome, such as fatigue, malaise, fever, or involuntary weight loss.
You have repeated manifestations of Sjögren's syndrome, with at least two of the aforementioned constitutional symptoms or signs. Additionally, you experience limitations in at least one of the following because of your Sjögren's:
- Limitations in your daily activities
- Limitations in your ability to maintain a social life
- Limitations in completing tasks in a timely manner because of issues related to concentrating, persisting, or maintaining a reasonable pace
4 Questions to ask yourself before applying
It's helpful to determine your chances of success before you begin the lengthy and arduous application process. If you're able to answer “yes” to most of the following questions, you have a better chance of qualifying for Social Security disability benefits:
- Does your Sjögren's syndrome affect at least two organs or body systems, with at least one of them impacted to a moderate degree?
- Do you experience at least two constitutional symptoms due to your Sjögren's syndrome, such as fatigue, malaise, fever, or involuntary weight loss?
- Does your Sjögren's syndrome limit your daily activities, social life, or ability to complete tasks in a timely manner?
- Do you experience repeated manifestations of your Sjögren's syndrome, meaning you deal with symptoms at least three times a year for periods of two weeks or longer, or more frequently or for a longer duration than that?
My Sjögren's syndrome meets the criteria. Now what?
If you're confident your Sjögren's syndrome meets SSA criteria, your next step is to apply for disability benefits. In other cases, it might feel less clear-cut whether or not your Sjögren's syndrome will qualify. Walking yourself through the following scenarios can help you determine if you should apply:
Apply now if:
- You have been diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome
- At least two of your systems or organs are affected by Sjögren's syndrome
- You have repeated flare-ups and deal with limitations due to your Sjögren's
Consider waiting and applying later if:
- The impact of your Sjögren's syndrome is limited
- You're still able to work, though you think you may no longer be able to in the future because of your Sjögren's syndrome
Probably don’t apply if:
- Your Sjögren's syndrome doesn't prevent you from working
- You're earning more than $1,550 per month
If you need further guidance, take our free 2-minute disability quiz to find out whether or not you’ll qualify before you start the application. A member of our team will follow up to learn more about your case and offer advice. Those who are likely to qualify have the option of getting matched with an experienced disability lawyer — there are no upfront costs.
What type of benefits should I apply for?
As you get into the process of applying for disability, you'll find that there are two different types of disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Social Security Disability Insurance: SSDI is for people who have worked and paid taxes for years, including at least five of the last 10 years.
- Supplemental Security Income: SSI, on the other hand, is for people who haven't worked much or at all, and who have low income (typically around $900 per month or less) and few assets, such as savings and other valuable property.
Both programs include health insurance, with Medicare for SSDI and Medicaid for SSI beneficiaries.
For a better understanding of the two types of disability benefits, here's a full breakdown of the differences between SSDI and SSI.
How much is a disability check for Sjögren's syndrome?
The average disability check for Sjögren's syndrome is $1,361.97 per month. You could receive even more than that though, given that as of 2024, the maximum monthly amount you can receive for SSDI is $3,822. For SSI, you can receive up to $943 per month.
Note that you can't receive more than those maximum amounts regardless of how many conditions you use to apply or what condition you qualify for. The exact amount of your monthly benefit will depend on your work history if you’re applying for SSDI and your other sources of income if applying for SSI.
For a better understanding of how much you could receive for your Sjögren's syndrome, here's a breakdown of how much people make on SSDI and SSI.
What if my Sjögren's syndrome doesn’t meet the criteria?
If your Sjögren's syndrome does not align with the SSA criteria, you can still apply. Just know that you'll need to prove through medical records that your Sjögren's syndrome is so severe that you can't work because of it.
Be prepared for your application to get denied the first time, even if your Sjögren's is severe. An estimated 80% of applicants who apply for disability benefits are turned down on their first attempt. Don't give up though — the chances of winning a disability appeal are significantly higher if you choose to appeal your initial denial.
Get help with your disability application
As you navigate this process, you may find yourself in need of financial aid or legal assistance. Atticus has compiled resources for people with disabilities that can help you out.
Take our 2-minute quiz to see if your Sjögren's syndrome qualifies for disability benefits. A member of the Atticus team will follow up with you to learn more about your condition. We can also match you with a qualified disability lawyer. There are no upfront costs — you only pay when the lawyer wins you benefits.
Other conditions that can qualify for disability:
Qualifying for Disability: Everything You Should Know
By Jackie Jakab
Is it Hard to Get Disability for Mental Illness? (Yes, But This Can Help)
By Sydney Hershenhorn