Diabetes and Qualifying for Disability Benefits
Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of diabetes?
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
Though new cases of diabetes have decreased over the years, approximately 34.2 million Americans currently have diabetes and 88 million adults have prediabetes. Of the 34.2 million, 7.3 million remain undiagnosed – unaware they even have the condition. More young people are developing Type 1 and 2 diabetes, but as the proportion of the older population increases, more adults are likely to develop some form of diabetes.
If you are suffering from the effects of diabetes you may qualify for disability benefits.
Diabetes Mellitus is a term for several chronic conditions involving problems with the hormone insulin.
The pancreas releases insulin in the body to store and use fat and sugar from food. When a carbohydrate is eaten, the body converts it to glucose (sugar) and releases the glucose into the bloodstream to be stored or used for energy. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin or when the body responds inappropriately to insulin. If the body doesn’t use insulin properly, too much glucose can be released into the blood resulting in high blood sugar. High blood sugar is a serious condition; if untreated, it can damage nerves, eyes, kidneys and other organs.
There are two main types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas. It is unclear why this occurs, but genetics and some viruses may contribute to Type 1 diabetes. Previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile onset diabetes, Type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence; however, it can develop in adults. About 10% of people have this type of diabetes.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from diabetes. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
Type 2 diabetes was once called adult-onset diabetes, but has become more common in children over the past 20 years.
In this type of diabetes the pancreas either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body doesn’t use the insulin properly, resulting in too much blood sugar circulating through the body and leading to disorders of the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems. 90% of people have Type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is a condition where a person’s blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered Type 2 diabetes.
Approximately one-third of people who have prediabetes are unaware they have the condition. Prediabetes can cause long-term damage to the heart, kidneys and other organs and without lifestyle changes can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs for the first time during pregnancy.
Like other forms of diabetes, this condition can cause high blood sugar and affect the mother’s and baby’s health, but blood sugar usually returns to normal after the baby is born.
Early signs and symptoms of diabetes can be mild or not even noticed, especially in Type 2.
Type 1 diabetes can occur quickly; symptoms will be more severe with the first sign being a high level of glucose in the blood. Common symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes include:
- Extreme hunger;
- Extreme fatigue;
- Increased thirst;
- Frequent urination;
- Slow healing sores or cuts;
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Blurred vision;
- Frequent infections;
- Presence of ketones in the urine;
- Dry mouth;
- Itchy skin.
A person is more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes if they are a child or teenager, they have a close relative who has diabetes, or they carry genes that are linked to the condition.
- have prediabetes;
- are overweight;
- have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high triglycerides;
- are over the age of 45;
- have a parent or sibling with diabetes;
- aren’t physically active;
- have Hispanic, African American, American Indian, Asian American, Alaska Native or Pacific Islander ancestry.
Diagnosis of diabetes usually involves taking a glucose tolerance test which measures glucose in the blood after fasting for eight hours.
Currently, there is no cure for diabetes. Treatment focuses on developing a healthy lifestyle and monitoring blood sugar levels. This may include insulin injections with a syringe or pen and medications to stimulate the pancreas to produce or inhibit the release of insulin.
Diabetes is no longer included in Social Security’s Blue Book as a separate listing, so a diagnosis of diabetes won’t automatically qualify an applicant for Social Security disability benefits.
In order to qualify, you must show that diabetes has severely limited your abilities or your symptoms must match the requirements of a listed impairment. For example, your medical condition may be similar of the requirements of the following listed impairments
- Diabetic nephropathy (Listing 6.06). Kidneys no longer working properly, requiring daily dialysis.
- Diabetic peripheral neuropathies (Listing 11.14). Nerve damage impacting ability to walk, stand or use hands.
- Poorly healing skin and bacterial infections (Listing 8.04).
- Cardiovascular problems (Listings 4.02, 4.04, 4.05, 4.12). Coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, and irregular heartbeat.
- Diabetic retinopathy (Listing 2.00). Blurred vision or poor visual acuity.
Most applicants do not qualify for SSDI because their medical condition is not severe enough.
If diabetes has caused skin problems, nerve conditions or organ damage that limits your ability to stand, walk or use your hands, you may be eligible. If you have diabetes, but your disability does not match one of Social Security’s listings, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits if you have another impairment; for example, arthritis. Applicants often have more than one illness or injury that prevents them from working full time. By itself one disorder may not meet the requirements of an impairment listed in Social Security’s Blue Book, but if you have multiple medical conditions, Social Security must consider how those health issues, combined together, limit your ability to hold a job and perform necessary daily tasks. Social Security will also evaluate how your limitations affect your ability to work (called a medical vocational assessment), taking into account whether or not you are able to drive, your age, and level of education.
Obtaining approval for Social Security disability benefits may not be easy with a diagnosis of diabetes.
Your best chance for success is to consult a qualified disability attorney who can review your case, gather the medical evidence you need and avoid needless mistakes that may delay the process.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for over 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Roach obtained board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Highly experienced in Long Term Disability denials and appeals governed by the “ERISA” Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Austin Bar Association, and is a past the director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association (Director 1999-2005) Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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