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Social Security Disability Benefits For Diabetes
I have been diagnosed with diabetes. Can I get Social Security Disability benefits (SSI/SSDI), Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), or Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI)?
Receiving a diagnosis of diabetes is just the start. You can expect that the main focus in a Social Security disability claim is on the symptoms you experience from diabetes and how those symptoms affect your ability to engage in physical and mental work-related activities eight (8) hours per day, five (5) days per week (full-time).
Diabetes refers to any of the certain diseases involving the hormone insulin and the level of glucose (blood sugar) in our body. Insulin is produced by an organ called the pancreas to help the body store and use sugar. If the pancreas produces too little insulin, or if the body does not respond properly to the insulin produced, too much glucose can remain in our blood, leading to serious complications.
There are two major types of diabetes. Type 1 occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. This type is more typical among children and adolescents, and as of now, its exact cause is unknown. Meanwhile, Type 2 diabetes, which is the more common type, typically occurs among people older than 40. It happens when your cells become resistant to insulin, likely due to genetic, environmental, and dietary factors.
Both diabetes types share some common symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, irritability, frequent infections, slow-healing sores, and the presence of the substance ketone in the urine.
Can diabetics get disability benefits?
Diabetes can eventually lead to disabling complications. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a 5-step process to decide if you are disabled.
Step 1. Are you working?
First, the SSA looks at your work activity. If you are engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) you will not be found disabled. The amount you must earn to be working at SGA changes each year. For 2018 it is $1,180 per month if you are not blind and $1,970 per month if you are blind. If you are working, and your earnings average more than the SGA limit, then you will not be found disabled. If you are not working, or your earnings are less than SGA, the process proceeds to Step 2 where your diabetes and any other physical or mental conditions are considered.
Step 2. Is your medical condition “severe”?
The SSA wants to see if your medical condition significantly limits your ability to do basic work activities such as sitting; standing; walking; lifting; carrying; understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions; making simple work-related decisions; responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and work stress; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting.
For the SSA to find you disabled, you must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment (or a combination of impairments) that is severe and has lasted or is expected last one (1) year or end in death. If your medical condition is not that severe, you will not be found to meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits. If your condition is that severe, the SSA goes to Step 3.
Step 3. Does your medical condition meet or equal the severity of a “listing”?
A “listing” refers to any of the medical criteria in the Social Security Administration’s list. These medical criteria are considered to be so severe that you will be found disabled if your medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) matches them. The Adult Listing for diabetes can be found here.
If none of your impairments meets or equals one of the listings, or if the duration requirement is not met, the SSA determines what you’re capable of doing despite your impairments. This is your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).
RFC is a function-by-function assessment of your maximum ability to do sustained work-related physical and mental activities on a regular and continuing basis (8 hours a day, for 5 days a week) despite the limitations and restrictions resulting from your medically determinable impairments. In short, it is an evaluation of your capacity for full-time work.
Step 4. Can you do any of the jobs you have performed in the past fifteen (15) years?
The SSA now decides if your medical condition prevents you from being able to work full-time at jobs you have done in the past fifteen (15) years. If the SSA decides you can perform any of your past relevant work (PRW), you will be found not disabled. To be PRW, the work must have been substantial gainful activity (SGA); performed in the fifteen (15) year relevant period; and performed long enough to learn the job. If the SSA decides you cannot perform your past relevant work, or you have not worked in the past fifteen (15) years, SSA goes on to Step 5.
Be prepared to present proof here at Step 4. Two of the strongest types of evidence at this stage are medical records and the opinions of the doctors who are treating you for the conditions that are affecting your ability to work. The strongest medical evidence is what is known as objective medical evidence, or evidence that does not rely upon what you tell your doctors. The strongest opinions are opinions that are offered by doctors who specialize in the condition that is keeping you from working and which are supported by objective medical evidence.
For your diabetes disability claim, these are some types of objective medical evidence to support you:
- Test results, particularly from
- Urine concentration and dilution tests
- Blood chemical tests
- Water deprivation test
- Medical documentation of symptoms such as recurrent dehydration
- Clinician’s notes
In terms of specialists’ opinions, there are a variety of medical specialties that may be involved, depending on how diabetes has affected your body. Take a look at this list of doctors who specialize in treating diabetes and its complications:
- Endocrinologists – These doctors specialize in diabetes and other issues with the body’s hormones.
- Eye doctors (Ophthalmologists or Optometrists) – You may need them if your blood sugar is high enough to affect your eyesight.
- Foot doctors (Podiatrists) – Diabetes can also cause nerve damage in body parts such as the feet.
- Dentists – Because of excess blood sugar, diabetic patients are at greater risk for gum disease and other mouth infections.
Don’t just rely on your family doctor or primary care doctor for your diabetes. If you don’t consult a specialist, the SSA may interpret this as meaning that your condition is not that serious. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help you locate sources of treatment (even if you don’t have health insurance).
Step 5. Can you do any other type of work?
The burden of proof now shifts to the SSA. If you cannot do your past relevant work, SSA looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates your medical condition, your age, education, past work experience, and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you can do other work, the SSA will determine you are not disabled. If you cannot do other work, the SSA will find you disabled.
Are you over 50 years old? There are special rules that may apply to your claim that can result in a finding of disability even if there is some other work you could perform on a full-time basis. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer will be familiar with these rules and can ensure that they are considered in the evaluation of your case.
Can you get a disability check for diabetes?
Diabetes may be a debilitating and lifelong disease, but you don’t have to face it alone. Getting approved for disability benefits can provide a huge relief for you despite your condition.
The SSA’s process may seem strict, but you may still have a good chance for a successful disability application. Let our team from the Gillette Law Group help you. We have years of experience in effective disability claims with high success rates, enabling numerous people to receive the assistance they need.
We can do this for you, too. Consult with us for free by calling (855) 873-2604 today.