If diabetes (and the complications it causes you) prevents you from working, you should qualify for disability benefits. In 2020, 2.3% of workers received disability benefits for endocrine disorders, which include pancreatic gland disorders—or, diabetes.
We’ll go over how the SSA defines diabetes, when diabetes can qualify you for disability, and what you should do if you think you qualify for benefits.
Is diabetes a disability?
The short answer is yes, diabetes is a disability—as long as it prevents you from working.
There’s a caveat to this: The SSA won’t assess your case based on diabetes alone. Instead, they’ll evaluate the health impairments you experience because of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes—and decide if those impairments qualify you for benefits.
How the SSA defines diabetes
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are included under the same medical term (diabetes mellitus).
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.
With type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, the cells of the body resist the effects of insulin, weakening glucose absorption and metabolism. Treatment of type 2 diabetes generally requires lifestyle changes e.g. increased exercise and modified diet, and sometimes insulin in addition to other medications.
If you don’t have a good control over your diabetes, serious health problems will appear (more on this in a moment). The SSA will then evaluate whether your diabetes-induced health problems prevent you from working.
Can you get disability for diabetes?
Yes, you can get disability benefits for diabetes if the health impairments or complications caused by diabetes prevent you from working.
This means that not all people having diabetes can receive disability benefits—it’s difficult for patients with controlled diabetes to get disability. Your best option is to work with a doctor (and likely a disability lawyer) to properly document your condition.
How to qualify for disability with diabetes
As mentioned, the SSA will determine if you’re eligible for benefits based on your health impairments and/or complications caused by Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
This means you can qualify for benefits if:
- Your diabetes isn’t controlled.
- Serious health problems have come up because your diabetes is uncontrolled.
The SSA covers health impairments or complications caused by diabetes, including:
- Hyperglymia—an abnormally high level of blood glucose that may produce acute and long-term complications. Both types of diabetes can lead to hyperglymia.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)—an acute, potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes. This often requires hospital treatment.
- Chronic hyperglymia—an abnormally high level of blood glucose for a long time, which can lead to long-term diabetic complications.
- Hypoglycemia—an abnormally low level of blood glucose.
Each of these problems can lead to conditions that affect other body systems, and the SSA will evaluate your case based on the affected body system.
For example, the SSA may look at these complications caused by diabetic ketoacidosis:
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Intestinal necrosis
- Cerebral edema and seizures
Or these complications, in the case of chronic hyperglymia:
- Diabetic nephropathy
- Coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease
- Cognitive impairments, depression and anxiety
Evaluating your eligibility for disability with diabetes
If you’re still unsure whether your diabetes qualifies for disability, you’re not alone. While there’s no “checklist” that can guarantee your disability claim will be approved, here are a few points worth reflecting on:
- Do you have trouble controlling your blood sugar? Are you insulin-dependent?
- Do you experience neuropathy?
- Do you suffer from open wounds? Are they treatable? Do they continue to occur?
- Have you been hospitalized for ketoacidosis? If yes, how many times?
The lawyer may ask you further questions to make sure that you’re unable to work or handle daily activities on your own because of your health problems.
For example, if you have neuropathy—which makes it difficult for you to use your hands—you may also be asked these questions:
- Do you have trouble opening jars? Is it hard for you to button a shirt? Can you pick up coins off a table top, or would you need to slide those coins off the table?
- Do you have trouble reaching? If so, what direction is hard for you?
My diabetes meets the criteria. Now what?
If you experience health problems from your diabetes that prevent you from working—or if your impairment(s) medically equal a listing in another body system, apply for disability benefits as soon as you can.
To determine if you qualify for benefits, take our 2-minute quiz. If you qualify, we can refer you to an experienced disability lawyer. Our services are totally free and you won’t have to pay the lawyer unless they win your case.
Typically, you’ll either apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is evaluated based on your work history, while SSI is income-based. Learn more about SSDI vs. SSI.
What if my diabetes doesn’t meet the criteria?
If your condition doesn’t strictly satisfy the criteria above, you can still apply for disability benefits. The most important thing is to prove that you can’t work because of your diabetes. The SSA will determine if you have (or don’t have) enough functional capacity to perform your work.
Unfortunately, qualifying for disability is difficult. Only about 20% of disability applicants win their claim on the initial application. If you fail, you can always appeal—this is when you can submit new medical evidence and better argue your case in front of a judge. At this stage, you're much more likely to win (nearly half of the applicants get approved).
How much is a disability check for diabetes?
The average disability check for endocrine disorders is $1240.68.
However, because the SSA evaluates your case based on your health impairments, you may receive a different amount e.g. the average check for diseases of the musculoskeletal system is $1363.74 while it’s $1163.97 for depressive disorders.
If your diabetes qualifies for disability benefits, you can get up to $3,300 per month from SSDI, and up to $841 per month from SSI.
The maximum amounts for SSDI and SSI are set by law and are the same for every condition. Your actual disability check will vary depending on your work history (if you apply for SSDI) or your sources of income (if you apply for SSI). Some people can also qualify for and receive both payments.
3 tips when applying for disability with diabetes
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of winning your claim:
- Pay attention to how diabetes and its health complication(s) (if you have any) affect your daily activities, both at work and at home.
- Work closely with your doctor to ensure your medical records are complete and clearly show the symptoms and health problems caused by your diabetes, and to make sure you can gather the required documents for your application.
- Work with a disability lawyer to maximize your chances of success, especially if your health impairments aren’t listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, or you’re not sure whether they meet the SSA’s criteria. People who work with a lawyer are three times more likely to win their disability case.