[FAQ] Can you get Disability Benefits for Type I or Type II Diabetes?

Published on: October 2, 2017


Disability benefits are normally given to persons with an impairment that is so severe, that it prevents them from participating in any substantial gainful activity. A diagnosis of diabetes in itself does not lead to the granting of disability benefits. However, cases of diabetes can lead to other bodily complications such as damage to the nerves, kidneys and other internal organs.

When diabetes gets severe and difficult to control even with medication, it can cause more extensive complications such as hypertension, heart disease, or a stroke. These complications can further limit your ability to work and earn a living. Therefore, cases of diabetes that lead to such complications can form a strong basis for qualifying for disability benefits.

Diabetes Type I and Type II

Diabetes is a medical condition that is caused by the inability of the body to produce enough insulin. The pancreas is responsible for producing insulin, a hormone that signals the cells of the body to absorb excess glucose in order to regulate blood sugar levels. When you have diabetes, your pancreas does not produce enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar. The result is high blood sugar levels that can lead to nerve damage, cardiovascular diseases, and kidney as well as skin problems.

Type I diabetes is marked by the general inability of your body to produce insulin. It normally manifests itself in childhood, and patients require daily insulin injections. Type II diabetes occurs more commonly in adults, and it is marked by the cells of the body becoming resistant to insulin and failing to absorb enough glucose from the blood. Type II diabetes is commonly caused by obesity, high blood pressure, and genetic factors.

Can I Disability for Diabetes?

In 2011, the SSA removed its disability listing for many endocrine disorders, diabetes included. However, diabetes can lead you to experience symptoms of other conditions that may qualify you for benefits. There are several conditions that are caused by extreme and uncontrollable diabetes that can meet the threshold for disability benefits. Some of these include:

  • Diabetic neuropathy: diabetes can lead to your kidneys being unable to properly filter the blood of excessive components and waste materials. This may lead you to require daily dialysis, and as a result, qualify you for benefits.
  • Cardiovascular Problems: cases of diabetes that lead to chronic heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, or coronary artery disease can enable you to qualify for benefits under the disability listings for heart problems.
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathies: diabetes often causes nerve damage to the arms, feet, hands or legs. If you're experiencing significant disruptions to your ability to walk, use your hands, or stand, you may qualify for disability benefits under this classification. The nerve disorders may be preventing your ability to work in any productive manner.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: diabetes can also lead to blurred vision or a reduced visual acuity. If your vision stands at between 20/100 and 20/200 in your better eye, you can qualify for benefits under this listing.
  • Skin problems and bacterial infections: in some cases, diabetes leads to skin lesions that last for extended periods of time and make it difficult to use your hands or walk. If these ulcerative lesions last for at least 3 months, you can qualify for benefits under chronic skin infections.

Can I Qualify for Benefits Through an RFC Analysis?

In many cases, people with diabetes do not meet any of the listings above. However, they still experience symptoms that significantly limit their ability to carry out any gainful activity. The SSA will assess your symptoms to determine your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). RFC is the level of activity that you can engage in despite your impairment. The RFC will determine if you can do light, medium or heavy work in your current state. Medical records, doctors' opinions, and your symptoms are all used to determine RFC.

Diabetes can impact your RFC by limiting your ability to stand or walk for extended periods of time, inability to concentrate due to high glucose levels in the blood, or depression and extreme fatigue as a result of your diabetes. Cardiovascular complications caused by diabetes may also limit your ability to carry out work that requires heavy lifting or constant movement.

Download Guide: Why You Shouldn't Switch Disability Representatives 

How Diabetes Has Impacted Your Past

The SSA will also look at your past to determine how your diabetic condition has prevented you from working. Depending on your level of education and your skillset, the SSA will assess what types of work you can or cannot do when determining if you will receive benefits.

This is often referred to as a medical-vocational allowance. If your diabetes symptoms prevent you from doing the work you used to do before, the SSA will also consider your age and education when determining your inability to work in the future.


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