Applying for SSD Benefits with Diabetes

Many people are able to control diabetes through dietary and lifestyle changes and with medications. Some cases of diabetes however are difficult to control and can cause a range of lasting, even life threatening complications. Kidney issues, neuropathic pain, severe fatigue, skin infections, and amputations are among the most disabling complications of this disease.

Managing and treating uncontrolled diabetes can make it difficult, if not impossible, to work. When the illness prevents you from maintaining a job, it can qualify you for Social Security disability benefits.

Technical Eligibility for Benefits

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) disability programs include two types of benefits for which you may qualify:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – for disabled individuals of any age that have very limited income and financial resources. To qualify for SSI, you may not own more than $2,000 in assets, which include saved income, stocks, and life insurance. As a couple, you may not own more than $3,000 in assets.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – for disabled workers who meet “work credit” requirements. The amount of work credits needed will vary depending on your age when applying, but the general rule of thumb is that you will need to have worked for any five of the past ten years. SSDI benefits do not have any asset limitations.

Medically Qualifying with Diabetes

Uncontrolled diabetes can qualify for benefits by meeting the SSA’s Blue Book listing. The Blue Book is a manual of disabling conditions and the medical requirements for each condition. The diabetes listing appears in Section 9.00.5 and requires that your blood sugar levels that are consistently high and uncontrolled by prescribed therapies. Additionally, you must have severe complications resulting from your uncontrolled high blood sugars.

Even if you are able to manage your blood sugar through consistently following your doctor’s orders, you may still experience severe complications from diabetes. If you experience any of the following, you may be able to qualify for SSD benefits under the Blue Book listing for one of these recognized disabilities:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Heart, blood pressure, or circulatory issues
  • Gastroparesis or other serve digestive complications
  • Liver disease
  • Gangrene or amputation
  • Ongoing bacterial or fungal skin infections
  • Diabetic neuropathy

No matter what disability listing you may qualify under, your medical records must be thorough and should include:

  • A detailed statement from your doctor, documenting:
    • Your diagnosis, medical history, and physical findings, including any and all complications your experience
    • Prescribed therapies and their affects
    • How your diabetes and complications limits your everyday abilities
    • The long term implications for your health, including what the doctor expects your overall condition to be moving forward
  • Lab results, documenting A1C, urine blood sugar counts, liver counts, and other pertinent findings
  • Hospital records from ER visits and outpatient or inpatient treatments required
  • Surgical notes and post operative reports for any required procedures
  • Neurological evaluations, including EMGs, if necessary
  • Scans and other diagnostic tests that document specific complications, like EEGs for heart issues or vision tests for retinopathy.

Get your doctor’s help in reviewing Blue Book listings and in documenting your complications for the purpose of applying for benefits. Your physician knows how severe your diabetes and related complications are. He or she can assist you in building the medical records required for getting SSD benefits.

The Application Process and What to Expect

SSDI applications can be filed online at the SSA’s website, or via an appointment with the SSA. SSI applications on the other hand must be filed during a personal interview with an SSA representative. Call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment, or start your application online at any time here. To apply for SSI benefits, schedule an appointment at your local SSA office.

Use the disability starter kit to prepare in advance. Work with your doctor to collect your medical records. Because most people with diabetes are able to manage their illness with lifestyle adjustments, dietary changes, and with prescribed treatments, it can be difficult to prove disability with diabetes alone. Many who apply for benefits with diabetes are initially denied. You may be one of them. However, you will not know until you submit your application, and even if you are denied, you can still file an appeal to try to get the benefits you need. You can file an appeal on the SSA’s website.

Deanna Power
Community Outreach Manager
Social Security Disability Help