Diabetes and Disability

By Kimberly BishopDecember 31, 2023

If you or someone you care for is unable to work due to diabetes, read below for how the Social Security Administration can evaluate your claim for disability benefits.

The Bishop Law Firm has represented disability clients in North Carolina since 2009. We do not get paid unless you win your case and we offer free case reviews. Call us today or start your free case review online now.

What is diabetes?

Per the CDC, diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. The body turns most food into glucose which is released into the bloodstream.

When this sugar (glucose) is released into your blood stream, the pancreas should release insulin to convert this sugar into energy.

In those with diabetes, the adequate amount of insulin is not manufactured by the pancreas thus the sugar just stays in the bloodstream. This makes diabetes an endocrine disorder.

Diabetes is broken into two types: Type I Diabetes usually develops in younger individuals (and requires insulin), while Type II usually comes later in life. Unfortunately, per WHO, Type II diabetes is now occurring more frequently in children.

Also, diabetics can be either insulin dependent or non-insulin dependent. Insulin can be delivered different ways: needle and syringe, insulin pump, pens, inhalers and even an artificial pancreas (via NIH).

In addition to insulin, non-insulin medications are used in Type II diabetes. Metformin; Januvia or Nesina (DPP-4 Inhibitors); Trulicity or Ozempic (GLP-1 and dual GLP-1/GIP Receptor Agonists); Brenzavvy (SGLT2 Inhibitors); Glipizide (Sulfonylureas) and Actos (TZD) (per the American Diabetes Association), to name a few.

Either type of diabetes can cause symptoms such as dry mouth, fatigue, blurred vision, frequent urination, fatigue and neuropathy. In some cases, even amputation and cardiac problems may result from your diabetes. Diabetics must be careful about their diet and monitor their blood sugar.

While advances have been made in diabetic treatment, some patients have problems finding the right medication for their diabetes even with following strict diets and checking their blood sugar religiously.

Unfortunately, brittle or labile diabetes can also occur. When someone is a "brittle diabetic" it means that their diabetes is poorly controlled and results in moving from hypoglycemia to hyperglycemia quickly.

Fluctuating blood glucose levels can cause serious health problems for diabetics.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is also a life threatening complication of diabetes. DKA occurs when the body does not have enough insulin for energy so the liver breaks down fat which produces ketones. An abundance of ketones can turn your blood acidic (per the Mayo Clinic).

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What types of Social Security Disability benefits are available?

The first step to attaining disability for diabetes is to apply for Social Security Disability.  You can apply online or at your local SSA office. When you apply for benefits, SSA will determine what type of disability benefit you are eligible to apply for.

Social Security generally offers two types of benefits to the disabled: SSDI and SSI. While SSDI and SSI are separate Social Security Disability programs with different requirements you must be found disabled before you are entitled to either benefit.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is based on the credits from the work you have done in your life. You must be found disabled before your date last insured (DLI) to be found eligible for SSDI. Your DLI is calculated by counting your “quarters of coverage” from your earnings record. You must have 20 “quarters of coverage” of the last 40 quarters. Simply put, you must have worked 5 years of the last ten years (in general). In addition, Adult Disabled Children can be eligible for benefits off their parent’s account.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is a need-based program and you must meet income/asset standards in addition to being found disabled under the five steps above. In 2024, SSI is $943.00 per month for an individual and $1,415 for an eligible couple. SSI will be reduced by 1/3 if you are receiving financial help from others. In NC, SSI recipients are also entitled to Medicaid.

SSI is also available for disabled children and is evaluated under a different standard than adults. Children must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments (including emotional or learning problems) which result in marked and severe functional limitations, and the impairment(s) has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or be expected to result in death. Child SSI terminates when the child turns 18. The claimant will then have to reapply.

Social Security Disability for Diabetes Mellitus

As with all applications for SSA disability benefits, the name of your impairment is generally not as important as the severity of your symptoms.

Having diabetes alone will not qualify you for disability. The real question is if your symptoms from your diabetes are severe enough to prevent you from engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA). 

When I first started practicing Social Security Disability Law, there was a separate listing for diabetes itself. This listing was removed by the SSA in 2011 despite protests. 

Despite SSA's removal of this listing in 2011, they did issue SSR 14-2p which discusses how they will evaluate a disability claim for Diabetes Mellitus. 

As you will see in this ruling under Part II-C, the Social Security Administration now evaluates diabetes under the part of the body that is affected by your diabetes. For example, if you have to have an amputation due to your diabetes, it will be evaluated under Listing 1.05, Amputation. Diabetic Retinopathy would be evaluated under the vision loss listings: 2.02, 2.03 and 2.04. 

In addition to the listings, the SSA can use the Medical Vocational Guidelines (Grids) to find you disabled if you are 50 or older; and the symptoms from a combination of your impairments may also be used to find you disabled.

In my clients with diabetes, obesity, neuropathy and high blood pressure frequently co-occur. The symptoms of all your impairments should be aggregated by Social Security to determine if you are able to work.

Unfortunately, in certain cases, even when blood sugar levels are controlled, there can still be severe complications from diabetes. With severe symptoms, such as vision loss or Charcot Foot, a doctor may have to prescribe prednisone (steroid) to halt the inflammatory process.

Steroids increase blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes. This can leave a diabetic patient in a terrible position, which should definitely be pointed out to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Do you need an Experienced Disability Lawyer?

Having an experienced disability lawyer on your side can help you understand what SSA needs from you in order to find you disabled. In addition to reported symptoms, you need medical records demonstrating that you have followed medical advice and still are unable to work due to your diabetes.

We advise our clients not to worry about meeting a listing! If you meet a listing, working has been off the list for quite some time. If you are unable to work because of your health apply for benefits as soon as possible. Delay may cause you to lose benefits.

The Bishop Law Firm can help if you need a Social Security Disability Lawyer. We have represented many clients at DDS (Disability Determination Services), at the hearing with the Social Security Administration Administrative Law Judge, the Appeals Council (AC) and District Court (DC).

We represent disability clients in: Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Cary, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Smithfield, Louisburg, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids , Winston Salem, Garner, Greensboro, Greenville and surrounding areas in North Carolina.

We do not get paid unless we win and we offer free case reviews. Call us today or start your free case review online now.

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