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Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits with Diabetes?


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Diabetes can be a debilitating disease that can also cause or contribute to a number of related conditions. Many people think that diabetes is not the type of sickness or impairment that Social Security Disability would cover. Fortunately, Social Security Disability (SSD) can, in certain situations, provide cash benefits for those with a severe condition. However to be approved for SSD benefits one must apply through the Social Security Administration and satisfy all requirements and the 5-step determination process.

What do I need to qualify for SSD Benefits with Diabetes?

Before you even reach the 5-step disability determination process as employed by the SSA, you must first show that you have a sufficient work history. A sufficient work history is required because the SSD program is an insurance program that pays cash benefits to workers who become disabled and unable to work. A sufficient work history consists of both adequate recent work and work history. In 2014, one credit may be earned for each $1,2000 in wages or earnings — up to 4 credits. Generally speaking the greater the age at which you become disabled, the greater the number of work credits that are required. For instance, a 50 year-old-worker would need 28 work credits while a 60 year-old would need 38 work credits to qualify.

The 5-Step Determination Process and Diabetes

Nurse with Patient - Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits with Diabetes?

If you have satisfied SSD’s work requirements, you must still be able to satisfy the 5-step process the SSA uses to determine if you have a qualifying disability. At the first step of the process the disability claims examiner or administrative law judge will determine if you are currently working. The arbiter looks to your substantial gainful activity (SGA), the amount of money you earn or are able to work for, to determine if you qualify. If you made more than $1,070 monthly in 2014, your SGA is too high and you are unlikely to qualify for SSD benefits.

At the second step, the claim examiner determines if your diabetes or other conditions can be considered severe. For purposes of disability, a severe condition is one that limits the activities that you are able to perform. In contrast, a condition that does not impose any limitation on your daily life is not severe.  To qualify for disability the claims examiner must find your diabetes condition or combination of conditions to be severe.

At the third step your condition will be compared to a list of conditions that the SSA recognizes as severe. If you have a listed condition, you qualify for SSD. Listed diabetes-related conditions include:

  • Amputation of an extremity (Listing 1.05) – Diabetes can cause circulatory problems that may necessitate the amputation of a limb. An amputation can make the work that you used to do difficult or impossible.
  • Diabetic retinopathy (Listing 2.02) – Diabetes can cause damage to the eyes and optical nerves. An Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) may be utilized to prove your visual impairment caused by diabetes.
  • Heart and circulatory issues – Diabetes can contribute to or cause a number of cardiovascular issues including heart failure (Listing 4.02), coronary artery disease (Listing 4.04), irregular heartbeat (Listing 4.05), vascular disease (Listing 4.12).
  • Kidney Disease (Listing 6.06) – Diabetes can lead to issues with the kidney that require daily dialysis when conditions like Nephrotic syndrome develop
  • Skin lesions and infections (Listing 8.04) – Diabetes can also impair with the healing process and may lead to chronic infection. To qualify for this condition it must have persisted for at least 3 months and be expected to continue despite treatment.
  • Diabetic nerve damage (Listing 11.14) – Diabetes complications may lead to problems with motor functions in the arms, legs, and other extremities.

If you do not have a listed condition due to your diabetes, you may still qualify if the SSA determines that your condition is medically equivalent.

At steps four and five, the claims examiner looks to your employment history and ability to do work. At step four, they determine if you are able to perform your previous work. If you are unable to do your previous work, at step 5, the claims examiner determines if there is other types of work your would be able to perform.

For nearly 20 years, Fayetteville AR disability lawyer Ken Kieklak has provided respected and trusted legal advice to people with Social Security questions in Arkansas. For your free and confidential legal consultation call us at (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.

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