Workers’ Compensation
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Can I seek SSDI benefits if my type 2 diabetes keeps me from working?

Sometimes our good health does not last forever. For example, a person in their middle age may develop type 2 diabetes, the complications of which may make it impossible to work. This can be a devastating blow not only to their health, but also to their pocketbook. People in this situation may wonder how they are going to put food on the table and keep the lights on. One way to obtain financial relief in this situation is to pursue Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

What is diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a complicated and chronic disease involving the pancreas, which produces insulin, a hormone that controls the metabolism of sugar, also called glucose, for the body’s use as energy. Type 2 diabetes occurs when either the pancreas does not make enough insulin, or the body is unable to properly respond to insulin.

Some patients can get reasonable hold of the illness with blood sugar monitoring, weight loss, exercise and proper diet, often in combination with insulin injection and medication. But serious, life-changing – or sometimes life-threatening – symptoms can be potentially disabling, including:

  • Kidney failure
  • Nerve damage
  • Eye damage, including cataracts, glaucoma, retina damage and blindness
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Skin infections and diseases, including interruption of the skin’s healing process, sometimes leading to limb amputation
  • Hearing impairment
  • Sleep apnea
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Hyperglycemia or abnormally high blood sugar that can cause a wide variety of serious symptoms throughout the body
  • Hypoglycemia or extremely low blood sugar that can cause seizures, cognitive problems and other issues
  • And others

How does the Social Security Administration (SSA) look at diabetes?

Not everyone with diabetes will automatically qualify for SSDI benefits. First, the claimant’s diabetes (in combination with any other physical or mental impairment) must be severe and expected to either last a year or result in death. Disability for purposes of SSDI must prevent the claimant from engaging in substantial gainful activity – or meaningful (for purposes of earnings) work.

One way the SSA finds someone disabled is for them to meet an official listing in the Listing of Impairments. The SSA created this list of impairments so severe that the agency will automatically find a claimant disabled if they meet or equal a listed impairment.

Diabetes mellitus (another term for diabetes) is included in the endocrine disorder listings. However, because diabetes impacts several body systems, the diabetes listing cross-references the listings for the types of secondary illnesses from diabetes. For example, if diabetes causes diabetic ketoacidosis (a dangerous chemical imbalance) that in turn causes cardiac arrhythmia, the SSA will look at the cardiovascular listings.

If the claimant with diabetes does not meet or equal the listing, they could still be disabled if they are unable to perform other work considering their age, education and work experience as well as their medical limitations.

Legal help can be crucial

It is important to note that many times the SSA will deny a person’s initial SSDI application, necessitating an appeal – or appeals – a process that could take months or even years. It is important to seek professional advice, especially if your initial application for benefits is denied.



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