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Applying for Disability with Diabetes

Are you struggling to work because of complications related to diabetes? Disability benefits can reduce the risk of financial insecurity, if you qualify.

Complications associated with diabetes may allow you to qualify for disability benefits. These benefits are federally funded and available to eligible individuals who are unable to work as a result of severe health conditions. If you have diabetes and are struggling to work because of your health, this post explains how to determine your eligibility and apply for disability benefits.

Is Diabetes a Disability?

Diabetes alone is not a qualifying factor for disability benefits. However, the many comorbid conditions associated with diabetes can leave one physically and mentally incapable of working. Chronic pain, limb amputations, recurring infections, loss of vision, and depression are just a few of the conditions that can impair one’s ability to work with diabetes. If the effects of diabetes are severely limiting and not expected to improve within 12 months, financial assistance may be available.

What Kind of Benefits are Available?

Disability benefits are available in two forms:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

While both programs offer monthly financial assistance to eligible individuals, there are a few key differences between them.

SSDI is a type of “insurance” available to disabled adults who have been working regularly and paying Social Security taxes. How much the individual receives each month is based on average lifetime earnings.

SSI is a needs-based program and is available to disabled adults and children with limited income. Applicants are not required to have any kind of working history or payment of Social Security tax, but they must fall below a specified income limit.

It is possible to qualify and collect from both programs if all criteria are met.

Who is Eligible?

In order to qualify for disability benefits, certain medical and non-medical criteria must be met.

Medical Criteria

In order to qualify for SSDI or SSI, your condition must be considered “fully disabling” based on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition:

  • Inability to carry out your current work because of your medical condition.
  • Inability to adjust to other work because of your medical condition.
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year, or result in death.

The SSA uses a 5-step process to determine if someone is disabled. This process follows a series of questions designed to evaluate the severity of an injury or condition and its impact on the individual’s ability to work. If at any point in the process the condition is deemed not severe or the individual has the skills and abilities for another form of work, they would be considered not disabled and would not qualify for benefits. If a condition falls under the SSA’s List of Disabling Conditions or prevents the individual from performing past, current, or alternative forms of work, then they are considered disabled and may qualify for benefits.

Non-medical Criteria

In order to qualify for SSDI, the individual must have been working and contributing to Social Security within the last ten years. The SSA uses a “work credit” system to determine if the applicant is eligible for this type of assistance. Work credits are earned based on yearly income with a maximum of four credits earned per year. The number of work credits needed to qualify for SSDI is based on the applicant’s age.

SSI is needs-based and is only available to individuals with limited income and resources. Income may include wages, social security benefits, pensions, or worker’s compensation. Resources may include savings, retirement funds, secondary property (not a primary residence), or inheritance. Determining financial eligibility requires a thorough breakdown of monthly earnings and assets. This is best handled by an associate at your local Social Security office.

How to Apply

Applying for disability benefits can be a long and complicated process, so It is best to start your application early in order to begin receiving assistance as soon as possible. The Social Security Administration website is the best place to start the process, but applications can also be completed in-person, over the phone, or via mail.

It may take 3-5 months for the SSA to gather your medical records and process your application, and it is not unusual to be denied on your first application. In fact, up to 80% of applicants are denied assistance the first time they apply. If you do not qualify, you have the opportunity to appeal the decision, but anticipate another 3-5 months to complete this process.

Managing diabetes can be expensive, and without a reliable source of income, it can become financially crippling in a matter of months. If you are struggling to work due to your diabetes, consider asking a trusted loved one to help guide you through the process of applying for disability benefits.

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