Is Diabetes a Disability?

Wondering if you’re eligible for social security disability benefits if you suffer from diabetes? Understand the guidelines and is diabetes a disability?

If you’re a diabetic, you understand all too well the frustrating limitations diabetes created. The Social Security Agency puts diabetes under endocrine conditions in their Blue Book, a book that lists all conditions that qualify for disabilities.

Yet the Social Security administration does not label diabetes itself as a disability. So why is it in the book? Is diabetes a disability?

Keep reading to learn about diabetes and why it may or may not qualify as a disability.

What is Disability?

According to the Americans for Disability Act, an individual qualifies as having a disability if that person has a physical or mental deficit that limits their major life activity.

The term “disability” is a legal term, thus, and not a medical term.

This means whether the impairment occurs as the result of an accident or a genetic result, if an individual cannot perform any single major life activity, like keeping a job or driving, this person qualifies as having a disability.

Disabilities come from a variety of things. You could be born with a disability, or the disability could stem from an accident. For example, you may have a disability as a result of an accident at work. IN this case, the disability is usually covered by workers’ compensation.

Even worker’s compensation has a limit, though. If your worker’s compensation covers your disability initially and then times out, you could receive benefits because of the disability.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that takes place when your body cannot control your blood glucose. As a result, your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, spikes.

Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. Insulin basically transports glucose from food into cells so you can use the glucose for energy. If your body does not make insulin at all or enough insulin, your blood sugar spikes and the glucose stays in your blood. It does not reach the cells.

Is Diabetes a Disability?

In and of itself, diabetes is not technically a disability. It qualifies as a disease, but your body’s inability to create insulin does not create a physical or mental impairment that limits your major activity.

Diabetes can cause other problems, though, in the long run. These problems qualify as a disability.

How Can Diabetes Lead to a Disability?

Diabetes alone is not a disability. However, it leads to a myriad of problems that cause disabilities. Four in particular, either alone or in combination, can qualify as a disability.

1. Neuropathy

Neuropathy essentially is nerve damage, something that diabetes can cause. In fact, neuropathy is the leading cause of diabetes in the United States.

With neuropathy, one or more nerves sustain damage or are dysfunctional. As a result, you experience numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain in the areas with damaged nerves.

Those who suffer from neuropathy most often begin to feel the damage in their hands and feet.

The nerve damage can lead to compromised movement. You may not be able to walk smoothly anymore because of nerve damage.

Your motor function is also affected. You could experience paralysis, tremors, and involuntary movements.

2. Acidosis

Acidosis means your blood has an imbalance of acid. Several things can cause this, but in short, metabolic acidosis can result from diabetes. If not treated immediately, acidosis can lead to kidney stones, kidney failure, and ultimately, death.

3. Amputation

Diabetes can cause peripheral artery disease or a narrowing of the arteries. A lack of blood flow can lead to an increased chance of infection. Those limbs just do not have the necessary blood flow to help fight infection

Additionally, if you have nerve damage, you cannot feel if you have a sore or ulcer on your foot. The sore can easily get infected, and as a result, doctors will amputate an infected limb.

Amputation affects your everyday life and qualifies you for disability.

4. Retinitis Proliferans

Retinitis basically means inflammation of the retina. If you suffer severe inflammation, you will have impaired eyesight.

The Social Security blue book has a listing for retinitis proliferans under the listing for visual acuity. The numbers vary depending on the visual fields.

If you lose eyesight because of your diabetes, you will qualify for disability.

How Do These Things Happen?

Those unfamiliar with diabetes may wonder, what’s the big deal? How can diabetes cause other health problems? Don’t you just take a shot and get better?

Yes, often, diabetics can control elevated blood sugar through both medication and diet. However, if a diabetic cannot control his sugar levels, he will end up with neuropathy, which causes numbness, burning, and tingling. This constant sense of pain distracts you, making normal, everyday life functions fairly impossible.

Type 1 diabetes is especially damaging as it stems from a genetic condition and not a lifestyle. Type 1 diabetes is often called juvenile diabetes because individuals receive their diagnosis in childhood. Type 1 diabetics rely on insulin injections and constant blood sugar level monitoring.

You may wonder then, is type 1 diabetes a disability?

Even though five to ten percent of diabetics have type-1 diabetes, type-1 alone does not qualify as a disability.

While diabetes may not qualify as a disability, you could also qualify as having a disability if you have a combination of the effects of diabetes.

If a diabetic has neuropathy along with acidosis, he could qualify as having a disability. If the neuropathy alone is not causing impairment, the neuropathy along with other conditions may. This combination leads to a deficit and thus qualifies that individual for disability.

If a person has a combined effect of any one of these four conditions, he qualifies as having a disability.

What are the Implications if Diabetes is a Disability?

Labels matter. If you indeed have a disability as labeled by the Social Security Blue Book, you qualify for social security or disability payments. Diabetes and social security disability are connected.

You will not qualify with a simple diagnosis of diabetes. However, if you have neuropathy that prevents normal movements or that causes tremors, you could qualify. If you have paralysis as a result of diabetes or if you have 20/200 vision or worse in one eye, you qualify.

Complications such as kidney failure or cardiovascular complications because of a limb amputation can also qualify you.

If you have a child under the age of 6 with diabetes, and if that child requires daily insulin and 24-hour supervision, the child automatically qualifies until age 6.

What are the Implications if Diabetes is Not a Disability?

is diabetes considered a disability?

If your problems such as diabetes do not qualify as a disability, then the world defines it just like a disease. Your disease may have a potential cure, but it does not compromise your ability to function in life, and thus you do not need the disability funds available for those who have genuine disabilities.

The label matters. You may indeed have an impairment that qualifies you.

Medical-Vocation Allowance

You can receive approval for disability benefits by obtaining a medical-vocational allowance.

If your diabetes prevents you from doing the work you’ve always done or if it prevents you from holding onto any job in the current economy, the medical-vocational allowance will give you the benefits you need.

The allowance does not just hand you a check. It takes into account your age education, vocational history, and Residue Functional Capacity or RFC. This combination of information determines if you’re able to work in the current economy.

What is an RFC?

The Residue Functional Capacity or RFC determines if you can still work even with your given impairments. To have an accurate RFC, you should submit all relevant medical records that reflect your impairment. The RFC depends heavily on medical evidence.

The medical evidence should contain specific details about your condition. For example, if you have neuropathy, the evidence should mention an unsteady gate or numbness and tingle in your hands.

Seek a Specialist

To get the best chance at reflecting on your current condition, you need notes from a specialist and not just a family physician. So if you have diabetic retinopathy, you need records from an ophthalmologist. If you have kidney disease, you need to visit a nephrologist.

Your specialist should include opinions regarding your work-related impairments. What work does your physician think you can do? How does your condition limit you to work?

Use an RFC Form

Provide your doctor with an RFC form. This will ask questions about postural limitations like bending or stooping as well as manipulative limitations like handling and reaching. The RFC form will also ask questions about environmental listings such as extreme temperatures or noise.

Older people may have an easier time obtaining a medical-vocational allowance from the Social Security Agency. Grid rules take a person’s age into account with their disability. So a 50-year-old who has a high school education and no transferable skills can be found as disabled under the grid.

The grid works especially well for individuals with Type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes is often diagnosed in adulthood and only tends to worsen.

Diabetes: A Disease that Leads to Disability

So, is diabetes a disability? It clearly can lead to disability. Furthermore, the combination of impairments caused by diabetes can lead to a disability.

If you’re a diabetic, know your rights. You can qualify for assistance if you do. Contact a social security lawyer or social security disability attorney for help.

For all of your legal needs, contact us.