Even the best accommodations at work sometimes aren’t enough to help you keep your job when you have diabetes. Certain symptoms, such as blurry vision, numbness, nerve damage, and fatigue, can make working extremely difficult.
“I am considering going on disability,” one DiabetesTeam member shared. “I have fought several health complications and continued to force myself to work while doing so, but the struggle is becoming too much for me.”
When people in the U.S. with diabetes can no longer work, many seek Social Security disability benefits. Disability benefits help replace lost income when people with diabetes leave their jobs.
Applying for disability benefits can be emotionally difficult and time-consuming. “Trying to get disability for neuropathy,” one DiabetesTeam member wrote. “They keep dragging their feet. I used to be a race mechanic and fuel man for one of the top monster truck race teams in the country, traveling all over. I also have diabetic retinopathy in my eyes.”
Applying for a disability claim can feel intimidating, but understanding the process ahead of time can make applying easier.
There are two different federal disability programs in the United States, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To qualify for either program, you must have a disability that interferes with your ability to work.
Social Security Disability Income provides benefits to those who have previously had full-time work. SSDI benefits are funded through payroll taxes. If you are approved, you can receive benefits six months after you become disabled. If you have been disabled for at least a year, you may be able to get back payments of disability benefits for one year. You are eligible for Medicare 24 months after you start receiving SSDI.
Supplemental Security Income provides benefits to those who have not worked the required time period and have a low income. If you are approved, you can receive benefits in the next month. You may also be eligible for back payments of SSI if you became disabled before your SSI approval.
In most states, SSI eligibility qualifies you for Medicaid. In a few states, you have to apply for Medicaid separately from SSI, but the criteria for both are the same. Eligibility criteria for SSI recipients vary across states.
Almost every state provides an SSI supplement. The eligibility rules for supplements vary by state.
There is an asset cap for receiving Supplemental Security Income. For 2023, if an individual has more than $2,000 of assets (or a couple has more than $3,000 of assets), they lose eligibility. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a list of which assets are counted toward the maximum.
It’s possible to get both SSDI and SSI if you have very limited funds and have a work history.
To determine whether someone is disabled enough to be eligible for benefits, the Social Security Administration will evaluate several factors.
The following qualifying criteria will be examined when you apply for SSDI:
If you’re applying for SSI, the government will determine whether you meet the following criteria:
Applying for disability benefits for diabetes requires a lot of paperwork. The Social Security Administration offers a checklist of necessary application information. Below is a summary of what you’ll need to provide.
Medical evidence is typically the most important component of a disability application. Make sure your diabetes treatment team is aware that you are applying for disability so they can document your condition accordingly. Documentation is especially important if you are required to have a disability evaluation, and they must include objective findings based on examinations and test results conducted by medical professionals.
You may need the following documentation for your application:
You can apply for SSDI online if you aren’t currently receiving benefits and if you haven’t been denied in the past 60 days. You can apply for SSI online if you have never been married, if you were born in the United States, and if you are between 18 and 65. If you don’t meet any of those criteria, you can still apply at a local Social Security office or over the phone.
It takes an average of three to five months to process an initial application for disability benefits, but your wait may be shorter or longer, depending on your situation.
Only 21 percent of those who applied for disability benefits between 2010 and 2019 were approved on their first attempt. You can appeal the decision if your application is denied. The first step is reconsideration, when your case will be evaluated by someone who did not take part in the first evaluation. About 2 percent of applications that weren’t approved the first time were approved during reconsideration from 2010 through 2019.
Reconsideration can take time, and it may be frustrating to wait. If necessary, you have the option to file a second appeal. The second appeal includes a hearing by an administrative law judge. These are judges trained in disability laws, who will hear all the evidence in your disability case. You may have a disability attorney represent you at this hearing.
If you are denied at this level, you can ask the Appeals Council to review your case and make a decision on it. About 8 percent of SSDI claims between 2010 and 2019 were approved during a hearing with an administrative law judge or the Appeals Council. If you are denied at this level, your last remaining option is a federal court hearing.
Filing for disability benefits can be stressful. “They routinely turn you down the first two times, hoping you will give up,” one DiabetesTeam member wrote.
Members have shared a variety of ways to help deal with the process:
If you’d like to research more about disability benefits in countries outside of the United States, check out these resources, listed by country:
You’ll need help along the way as you file for disability for your diabetes. Always talk to your health care team because they’ve likely been through the process with others and may be able to provide you with good advice, as well as the documentation you need to turn in a strong disability application.
By joining DiabetesTeam, the social network and online community for those living with diabetes, you gain a support group of more than 131,000 people who understand life with diabetes.
Have you applied for Social Security disability benefits for type 2 diabetes? Do you have any advice about the process? Comment below or start a conversation on your Activities feed.