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  • Christopher Le

Can I Receive Social Security Disability for Diabetes?

If your diabetes has led to skin or nerve conditions or organ damage and therefore limits ability to walk, stand, or use your hands, you may be able to get Social Security Disability benefits.

Diabetes occurs when your body doesn't produce enough insulin to process glucose. Diabetes can sometimes be controlled with treatment such as oral medications and diet. However, that is not always the case. As a person ages, diabetes sometimes can't be controlled even if they follow doctors orders. It can lead to damage of the internal organs and other problems.

Symptoms and Complications of Adult Diabetes

Symptoms of both diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2 may include frequent urination, being thirsty and hungry, and extreme fatigue. Individuals with diabetes type 2 may also suffer from tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, as well as foot ulcers and infections that take a while to heal or could lead to potential amputation.

Some complications from diabetes include:

  • nephropathy (kidney disease)

  • neuropathy (nerve damage) numbness and tingling sensation in feet or hands that limits your ability to stand, walk, or use your hands

  • retinopathy (eye and vision problems)

  • cellulitis and other skin infections

  • hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • heart disease

  • stroke

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Diabetes

If you suffer from uncontrolled diabetes and you have been unable to work for at least 12 months, or EXPECTED to be unable to work for at least 12 months, you may be eligible for Social Security disability (SSDI/SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. But in order to qualify and be approved, you must be able to prove that the damage caused by your diabetes severely limits your capabilities of doing daily activities, or you must have severe complications that meet the requirements of one of Social Security's medical disability listings. If your diabetes is well controlled than it is not a severe impairment. Also, if your diabetes is uncontrolled because you fail to follow your doctor's recommended treatment, you will likely not be eligible for disability benefits as noncompliance with treatment hurts your chances of being approved.

Meeting a Disability Listing for Diabetic Complications

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a Listing of Impairments called the "Blue Book" that tells you how severe an illness must be to qualify for disability benefits. Unfortunately, diabetes, in itself, is no longer in the Blue Book list of impairments as it once was. BUT, if you have complications arising from your diabetes that do fall under another disability listing, you might be approved for benefits. So, if your complications do meet the requirements of a listing, you will automatically be approved for disability benefits. The following are some listings that people with complications from diabetes often suffer from:

  • Poorly healing skin and bacterial infections (Listing 8.04). If you suffer from ulcerating skin lesions that last for 3 months despite treatment and it makes it difficult for you to walk or use your hands, you may qualify for benefits under the listing for chronic skin infections.

  • Diabetic nephropathy (Listing 6.06). If your kidneys are beginning to fail and are not filtering properly, and you require daily dialysis treatment, you may be able to qualify for benefits.

  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathies (Listing 11.14). A large majority of people with diabetes have some kind of nerve damage in their hands, feet, arms, and/or legs. So to qualify for benefits under this listing, you have to show that your neuropathy causes a significant limitation to your ability to walk, stand, or use your hands.

  • Diabetic retinopathy (Listing 2.00). If you have blurred vision or poor visual acuity, meaning between 20/100 and 20/200 in your better eye, or poor peripheral vision from surgery, you can qualify for disability benefits under this listing.

  • Cardiovascular problems. Diabetes may also lead to coronary artery disease (listing 4.04), chronic heart failure (listing 4.02), peripheral vascular disease (listing 4.12), and an irregular heartbeat (listing 4.05). Depending on the severity of these problems, you may qualify for benefits under these listings.

  • Amputation of an extremity (Listing 1.05). If you've had a foot amputation due to nerve damage and poor circulation, you may be able to get benefits if you can prove other limitations as well.

Since Social Security's disability listings are very strict and your condition to be nearly extremely severe, many people do not meet the Blue Book Listing requirements. But do not worry. Social Security finds that the majority of people who apply for disability due to diabetes, are most likely to be reviewed under an RFC analysis. RFC stands for residual functional capacity. So if you can prove,

If you have diabetes and another major impairment such as depression, chronic spinal pain or obesity, Social Security will consider all your alleged impairments when considering if your condition is equals a Blue Book listing and when doing your RFC analysis.

What Limitations Does Your Diabetes Cause?

If you don't meet the requirements of a listing, SSA will consider your physical limitations. SSA will assess your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is an assessment to determine your capability of doing certain activities of daily living. An RFC analysis will determine what physical demand level of work you may be able to perform. For example, can you still do medium type work, or does your diabetes limit you to only doing sedentary work (sit down job). SSA determines your RFC based on your medical records and doctor's opinion. It would be best to ask your doctor if they can fill out an RFC form or at the very least ask them to provide a medical narrative as to what limitations they believe you have as a result of your diabetes.

When determining your RFC, SSA will look for information that shows limitations to your arms and hands, as well as ability to stand stand, and walk. For instance, if your diabetes has led to peripheral neuropathy that would limit sensation in your legs or feet, which may lead to you having difficulty walking or using foot controls. The SSA is also interested in whether you can maintain concentration to focus on tasks, get along with coworkers and the public, and come to work on a regular basis. For example, if you have poor control over your glucose levels during the day, SSA might feel that you are unable to concentrate for extended periods of time. Not being able to stay focus or on task with your job duties would lead to termination. So SSA does consider these factors. Also, if you have neuropathy in your legs and feet from your diabetes, you might have difficulty standing or walking for long periods. If you retinopathy, this could lead to have blurred vision, which would likely affect your ability to do many jobs that require near and far acuity.

The SSA will then determine whether your RFC is limiting enough that, given your age, your past jobs, and your educational level, you can't be expected to work. For example lets say your past jobs were in the oil field industry, and you have little education or skills that could transfer to any other job, it’s possible that the SSA might find that there is no work you could be expected to do. Your age also plays a factor as people age 50+ may use the medical vocational allowance, AKA GRID rules, to help them qualify for benefits. If you are under the age of 50, you will have to prove that you are not capable of even doing a sedentary type job.

Appealing a Denial of Benefits

The large majority who apply for social security disability based mainly on diabetes are usually denied benefits the first time go around. But do not worry, appeal it! Most cases eventually go before an administrative law judge, and an experienced disability lawyer can help you at your hearing. If you need assistance with your appeal, please give me a call at 210-885-3408.

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