Over 34 million Americans have diabetes, according to the CDC. This chronic disease affects the way the human body turns food into energy, but it can also cause several severe health problems. Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits to individuals with diabetes, qualifying for benefits can be challenging. That’s the time to call an experienced disability attorney.
Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP, represents Social Security disability claimants. If your diabetes is making it difficult or impossible to work, we can help you obtain the disability benefits you need and deserve. Please contact our office today to set up a consultation.
What Is Diabetes?
The food that you eat is broken down into sugar, called glucose, and released into your blood. This increases your blood sugar which, in turn, tells your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in your blood. If your body either cannot produce enough insulin or it cannot properly use it, that means you have diabetes. Without the insulin, or without the ability to properly use it, excess sugar stays in your blood. This causes several health problems like kidney disease and heart disease.
The three main types of diabetes are:
- Type 1. Usually diagnosed when you’re young, type 1 diabetes is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. Type 1 diabetes patients have to take insulin daily to live.
- Type 2. This type indicates that your body cannot use insulin well and therefore cannot maintain proper blood sugar. It is usually, but not necessarily, diagnosed in adults.
- Gestational. Finally, gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never been diagnosed as diabetic. It causes health risks for you and your baby, including the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Although there is no cure for this disease, it can be managed through proper diet, exercise, and insulin injections. Controlling diabetes is necessary to keep your glucose levels normal and prevent drastic fluctuations.
How the SSA Views Diabetes
Having diabetes alone is not enough to qualify for Social Security disability. The health problems caused by diabetes must severely limit your daily activities. More specifically, your diabetes must prevent you from being able to work for at least 12 months.
To determine this, the SSA will assess what’s called your Residual Functional Capacity, or RFC. Your RFC measures how much physical activity you can do despite your diabetes. So, for instance, it considers whether you can perform work tasks such as sitting, standing, reaching, lifting objects, and carrying things. Along with this, the SSA will take a look at your medical records, doctors’ opinions, and supporting statements by you, your family, and your friends.
Your diabetes alone may not keep you from working. But your complications might. The SSA maintains a Listing of Impairments, called the Blue Book, which includes several illnesses that can qualify someone for benefits. Since diabetes is not listed in the Blue Book, just having the disease will not automatically qualify you for benefits. But you can qualify if you have complications from diabetes that fall under another disability listing.
Diabetes Complications that May Qualify You for Disability
If your complications fall under another impairment listing, you can receive disability benefits. That’s because these conditions are considered severe enough to keep you from performing basic work tasks. Some of those complications are:
- Skin infections. Certain skin and bacterial infections may not heal correctly or may take a long time to do so. These skin conditions may make it difficult for a diabetes patient to use their hands or walk, which therefore can affect their ability to work.
- Diabetic nephropathy. This condition means your kidneys are incapable of properly filtering waste from your blood. Patients with diabetic nephropathy must have daily dialysis and may have other problems that make them eligible for disability compensation.
- Diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can cause someone to develop vision problems such as poor visual acuity or blurred vision. This condition can lead to blindness, but even less severe vision problems may make it impossible to work.
- Diabetic peripheral neuropathies. If you have diabetes, you probably have nerve damage in your hands, feet, arms, or legs. This can lead to a diagnosis of neuropathy. However, the patient must show that it interferes with his or her ability to work (for example, by disrupting the ability to walk).
- Heart and cardiovascular problems. Heart and cardiovascular issues can qualify a diabetes patient for disability. You could develop many complications such as chronic heart failure, coronary artery disease, and irregular heartbeat.
- Amputation. One of your extremities may need to be amputated because of poor circulation and nerve damage resulting from diabetes. For example, losing your foot can significantly impair your work functions.
What to Do Next If You Have Diabetes and Need Disability Benefits
Diabetes affects everyone differently, so you need medical evidence to demonstrate how it interferes with your work functions. Start by gathering any and all medical records which document your diabetes and any conditions associated with it.
You should also begin documenting your work history as much as you can. SSA will need to determine if you can hold down gainful employment despite your diabetes and associated complications. That means the agency will examine your age, education, and previous work experience. Anything concerning your job training will also be helpful, and the more documentation you have, the better.
Finally, talk to an experienced Social Security disability attorney. Your attorney will review your case, help gather the supporting documentation, and make sure your application is accurate and complete. If your claim is denied, a skilled disability lawyer can also appeal any unfair adverse decisions.
Contact Our Lancaster Social Security Disability Attorneys for Diabetes Patients
Although having diabetes isn’t enough to qualify you for disability benefits, the application process is difficult no matter how severe your disease is. SSA routinely denies legitimate claims, leading many applicants to incorrectly believe they don’t qualify. You need a dedicated disability lawyer who understands what it takes to have your claim approved. You need Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP. Schedule your consultation with us today.