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Does Diabetes Make You Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

By November 17, 2020November 7th, 20233 min read

Nearly 3% of the world’s population suffers from some form if diabetes, which makes it one of the most prevalent diseases. Diabetes results when an individual’s endocrine system can no longer regulate the production of insulin and, therefore, process glucose in the blood. There are three types of diabetes: Type 1 (“juvenile” diabetes); Type 2 (“adult onset” diabetes); and gestational diabetes. Here, we will explore how to qualify for disability benefits with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Social Security Administration (SSA) does not distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The medical term for both is diabetes mellitus, and we will refer to both types here as simply diabetes. Symptoms of both types of diabetes include unusual thirst and hunger, extreme fatigue, and frequent urination. People who suffer from Type 2 diabetes also often experience tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, cuts that take a long time to heal, and frequent infections.

Unfortunately, a diagnosis of diabetes alone is no longer sufficient to qualify you for disability benefits through either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To be eligible for benefits, your doctor must diagnose you with diabetes mellitus and at least one of the following: neuropathy; acidosis; and/or diabetic retinopathy.

Neuropathy is an abnormality of the nervous system. In order to qualify for benefits with diabetes resulting in neuropathy, your neuropathy must significantly affect two of your extremities to the extent that you experience a sustained disturbance in: 1) the movement of those extremities; 2) walking; or 3) standing.

Acidosis is an abnormal increase in the acidity of your bodily fluids that is documented by blood tests and occurs at least once every two months. Diabetic retinopathy is damage of the blood vessels in your eye that causes a significant loss of peripheral vision or visual acuity in the better of two eyes, and the severity of the diabetic retinopathy must be such that you are virtually blind.

In its early stages, diabetes can often be controlled with treatment, which is usually a combination of dietary changes and medication. As people age, however, diabetes is harder to control, and that is the point at which it can cause substantial damage to internal organs.

You may be eligible for disability benefits if you have uncontrolled diabetes, and you have been completely unable to work or are expected to be unable to work for at least twelve consecutive months. If, however, your diabetes is uncontrolled because you refuse to follow your doctor’s prescribed treatment, you will be disqualified from receiving disability benefits.

As mentioned above, diabetes does not have its own listing in SSA’s Blue Book. But you may qualify for benefits if the resulting physical conditions caused by your diabetes are severe enough that the condition meets a Blue Book listing. Conditions that are often qualifying include cardiovascular problems, diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease), and amputation of an extremity. Similarly, if you have diabetes along with another impairment such as obesity or depression, SSA must consider the combined effects of all of your impairments when determining if you are eligible for disability benefits.