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If diabetes and its complications prevent you from working, you can qualify for disability benefits. In 2021, 2.1% of workers received disability benefits for endocrine disorders such as diabetes.
To help you get a better idea of whether your diabetes may qualify, we’ll go over how the Social Security Administration (SSA) defines diabetes, what criteria it looks for, and what you should do if you think you qualify for benefits.
Is diabetes a disability?
The short answer is that yes, diabetes is a disability according to the SSA, as long as it prevents you from working. However, most people are able to control their diabetes sufficiently enough to allow them to continue working.
How the SSA defines diabetes
The SSA considers both type 1 and type 2 diabetes as eligible for disability benefits if they meet the medical requirements. When making a decision, the SSA will also consider health conditions that result from your diabetes.
Types of diabetes
Diabetes is a pancreatic gland disorder that’s officially called diabetes mellitus. There are two common types.
Type 1 diabetes is an absolute deficiency of insulin production. This commonly begins in childhood and continues throughout adulthood, which means that treatment of type 1 diabetes requires lifelong daily insulin. You may also know this condition as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).
With type 2 diabetes, the cells of the body resist the effects of insulin, weakening your glucose absorption and metabolism. Treatment for type 2 diabetes generally requires lifestyle changes like increased exercise and modified diet. You may need to take insulin in addition to other medications. In some cases, type 2 diabetes is also called adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).
Can you get disability for diabetes?
Yes, you can get disability benefits for diabetes if it (or its complications) prevent you from being able to work. If it leaves you unable to properly handle daily tasks or care for yourself on your own, you may also qualify.
Unfortunately, many people who have diabetes won’t qualify to receive disability benefits. If you experience complications, but can still control your diabetes with medication or lifestyle changes—you won't qualify. But if your diabetes is too severe for you to work, you're more likely to meet the medical requirements for SSDI/SSI.
When applying for disability benefits, your diabetes is more likely to qualify if you're on insulin and you have A1C test results showing 10% or higher. Your chances of approval are highest if you can also show that you’ve received treatment but your symptoms have persisted.
Your chances of getting approved also increase if you have any of the following complications caused by diabetes:
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), especially if it requires hospital treatment
Hyperglycemia, especially if you experience long-term complications
Coronary artery disease
Peripheral vascular disease
Mental health conditions that make it harder to treat your diabetes, such as depression or anxiety
Regardless of what symptoms or complications you experience, it’s important to work closely with your doctor so they can document your condition. The SSA will look for detailed medical records and failing to show that you’ve been diagnosed and received treatment will hurt your case.
You may qualify if you answer yes to most or all of these questions
There’s no “checklist” that can guarantee your disability claim will be approved, but here are a few questions that are worth asking yourself before applying:
Am I insulin-dependent? Do I have trouble controlling my blood sugar?
Do I have A1C test results of 10% or higher?
Do I experience neuropathy?
Do I suffer from open wounds? Are they treatable? Do they continue to occur even with treatment?
Have I ever been hospitalized for ketoacidosis? How many times?
Have I developed other conditions alongside my diabetes, such as arthritis?
My diabetes meets the criteria for disability benefits. Now what?
If you believe that your diabetes will qualify you for disability benefits, the next step is to apply for disability benefits. It can take months or years to get approved for benefits, so it’s important to submit your application as soon as possible.
If you’re still unsure or just want help making a decision, take our 2-minute disability quiz. If you qualify, we can also refer you to an experienced disability lawyer who will help fill out your application in a way that resonates with the SSA. Plus you won’t have to pay the lawyer unless they win your case.
SSDI eligibility is based on your work history and you may qualify if you’ve worked and paid taxes for at least five of the past 10 years. SSI is an income-based program and may be an option if you don’t meet the SSDI work history requirements.
The average monthly disability check for diabetes and other similar endocrine disorders is $1,318.54.
How much you get will depend on your work and income history. The maximum SSDI payment is $3,822 per month and the maximum SSI payment is $943 per month in 2024. Those maximum amounts for SSDI and SSI are set by law and are the same for every condition.
What if my diabetes doesn’t meet the criteria?
Most workers who live with diabetes — even some with severe symptoms — will have it under control enough that they can still work. It’s an unfortunate truth that qualifying for Social Security disability is difficult. In fact, only about 20% of applicants win their claim on the initial application.
It is possible to apply for benefits even if you’re not sure that you qualify, but your best option is to speak with an expert — a disability lawyer — about your situation. They’ll be able to advise you on whether your specific situation could make you eligible for benefits.
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