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Does Diabetes Qualify Me for Social Security Disability?

August 23, 2016

Diabetes has been described by some health professionals as the “silent pandemic.” The exact number of Americans suffering from diabetes is elusive. Some estimates say the number is at almost 30 million, and for as many as 8 million of those, their diabetes is undiagnosed. Other sources suggest that as many as one out of every two Americans is either diabetic or pre-diabetic.

But this much is known for sure: diabetes can lead to a whole host of medical problems, including heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, vision problems, and foot problems. Some researchers say it can even lead to some kinds of cancer. Furthermore, diabetes can reduce individual employment opportunities and wages. It is a disease that hits the poor the hardest, due to its higher cost burden. The life impact of diabetes is wide-ranging. As one diabetes patient said, “It is easier to tell you the ways diabetes does not affect my life.”

Most people are able to control their diabetes with treatment—by adjusting their diet and taking medications. However, for some individuals—especially older people—treatment is ineffective; their diabetes cannot be controlled by diet and medicine. Young or old, if you have uncontrolled diabetes, and you have become unable to work as a result, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

One of the ways you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits is if one or more of your medical conditions meets the requirements of a disability listing in the Social Security Administration’s “Listing of Impairments” (also known as the “Blue Book”). However, diabetes, in itself, is no longer a listed impairment, so a diagnosis of diabetes will not automatically qualify you for benefits. However, medical complications caused by diabetes may qualify you under an applicable listing. Some of the complications that diabetes patients often suffer from which may make them eligible for benefits include:

    • Cardiovascular problems. If your diabetes has led to heart problems, you may meet the listing requirements for coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, or an irregular heartbeat.
    • Diabetic nephropathy. If you have kidney problems that necessitate daily dialysis or if there is too much protein or creatine in your plasma, you may meet the requirements of the kidney disease listing.
    • Diabetic peripheral neuropathies. Nerve damage in the feet, arms or legs is a common condition among those with diabetes. If you have difficulty standing, walking, and/or using your hands and these problems are significant enough to prevent you from holding a job, you may qualify.
    • Diabetic retinopathy. To qualify under this listing, you must have blurred or very poor vision (between 20/100 and 20/200 in your better eye or extremely poor peripheral vision.
    • Poorly healing skin and bacterial infections. Skin infections or wounds that won’t heal, have lasted for three months or more despite treatment, and make it difficult for you to walk or use your hands, may qualify you for benefits under the listing for chronic skin infections.

The Social Security Administration usually finds that most people do not meet the stringent requirements of the Blue Book listings, but this does not mean you are not eligible for benefits. To determine if your diabetes is severe enough to award benefits, Social Security will assess your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Simply stated, RFC is an evaluation of what you can still do despite your impairment(s). If, considering your age, education, and work experience, your diabetes causes you limitations that prevent you from performing any work activity, you can qualify for benefits. One of the most important pieces of evidence in a Social Security Disability case is your own doctor’s opinion about your RFC. An experienced lawyer can evaluate your case and determine the type of information that will be important to receive from your treating health professional.

Keep in mind that if your diabetes is not under control solely because you are not following your doctor’s prescribed treatment, you may not be eligible for benefits. For that reason, it is important to keep your doctor appointments and take your medications as prescribed.

As you can see, the considerations involved in filing for Social Security disability benefits related to diabetes are numerous and, at times, complex, but what is important to remember is that it is not the diagnosis alone of diabetes that qualifies you for disability benefits–—it is the ability to prove (with solid medical evidence) that you are unable to hold a job because of your medical condition. For a free evaluation of your case, call the Chicagoland Social Security Disability Lawyers at Nash Disability Law at (312)443-0900.