Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition affecting the way your body metabolizes glucose.
Type 2 diabetes can profoundly affect numerous systems in your body. It may lead to significant complications that can affect how well you’re able to work.
For example, common long-term complications include:
- nerve damage (also called diabetic neuropathy)
- heart and blood vessel disease
- kidney damage
- hearing impairment
- vision limitations or loss
- slow wound healing
- sleep apnea
- increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Because of issues like these, you may need to take unexpected, extended periods away from work. Or, the effects of type 2 diabetes could make it more challenging to look for flexible employment.
Fortunately, disability insurance from the Social Security Administration (SSA) can replace some of your income, as long as you can demonstrate that you’re unable to perform any type of work on a consistent basis because of your condition.
Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is a federal disability insurance benefit for those who have worked and paid into Social Security.
Keep in mind that SSDI is different from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). That program is for people with low incomes who didn’t pay enough into Social Security during their working years to qualify for SSDI.
If that describes you, consider looking into SSI as a starting point.
In either case, benefits are limited to those who are unable to “perform substantial gainful activity,” according to Liz Supinski, director of data science at the Society for Human Resource Management.
There are limits on how much a person can earn and still collect, she says, and it’s about $1,200 per month for most people, or around $2,000 per month for those who are also blind.
The SSA no longer includes type 2 diabetes as a separate disability listing, so simply having that diagnosis won’t qualify you for benefits.
However, if you have complications that meet the criteria under other disability listings, then you may be eligible.
The most common are:
- Diabetic peripheral neuropathies. This is nerve damage affecting your hands, arms, feet, or legs. You must show that it’s causing considerable disruption to your mobility.
- Diabetic retinopathy. If your condition has caused significant effects on your vision, such as blurriness, you may qualify.
- Diabetic nephropathy. Type 2 diabetes can affect the kidneys. If that’s the case for you and you require dialysis, you could be eligible.
- Chronic skin infections. For this to help you qualify, the infections must prevent you from working in a meaningful way.
- Heart problems. If your type 2 diabetes has led to cardiovascular issues, you may qualify under chronic heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, coronary artery disease, or irregular heartbeat.
If you have symptoms like these due to your diabetes, even though you’re following your doctor’s prescribed treatment, you could be eligible for disability benefits.
However, keep in mind that if your condition isn’t well managed because you’re not following a doctor’s prescribed treatment, you’re likely to be turned down for disability assistance.
To make sure the process is streamlined, it’s helpful to compile your medical paperwork in advance.
According to Thomas Giordano Jr., founding partner at Pond Lehocky Giordano, a Philadelphia law firm that often consults on Social Security disability issues, this includes things like:
- date of original diagnosis
- descriptions of impairments
- work history
- treatments related to your diabetes
“Type 2 diabetes can be a disabling condition that may be causing you to be unable to work, or unable to sustain consistent employment because you’re experiencing pain or complications, and so it’s important to understand you may be eligible for benefits,” he says.
“To qualify, you must be able to provide as much information as possible about your medical treatment,” he adds.
Information about your day-to-day activities is important, but be especially diligent in obtaining medical records and documentation, he says.
“Consistency of treatment for type 2 diabetes is not only important for management of the condition, but will also demonstrate the severity of your condition for SSA,” Giordano says.
Also let your doctors, colleagues, and family know you’ll be going through the application process.
The SSA gathers input from healthcare providers as well as the applicant, and sometimes asks for additional information from family members and co-workers to determine whether you qualify as disabled based on SSA criteria.
Claiming disability benefits can be a complex and lengthy process, but taking the time to understand the criteria used by the SSA can help you get closer to getting a claim approved.
Consider reaching out to representatives at your local SSA field office. They can help you apply for SSDI and SSI benefits.
Make an appointment by calling 800-772-1213, or complete an application online at the SSA website.