Slepian Smith, PLLC

SSDI based on disabling diabetes

At our law firm, we help people with a variety of disabling conditions in their claims for Social Security Disability Insurance, known as SSDI. In honor of our clients with diabetes and in recognition of November as National Diabetes Month, today we talk about SSDI claims based on disability stemming from diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus, referred to as DM, is a disease resulting from problems of the pancreatic gland in producing insulin, a hormone that regulates absorption of glucose into body systems. Type 1 is generally lifelong insulin deficiency, while type 2 involves cellular resistance to insulin. In many cases, DM can be medically controlled, but not always. When the symptoms of DM become disabling and prevent work, the patient may become eligible for SSDI.

When the Social Security Administration or SSA evaluates a disability claim based on DM, the agency will consider whether the diagnosis meets or equals a listed impairment. The listings contain medical conditions that the SSA automatically presumes to meet the legal definition of disability for SSDI (or SSI) eligibility because of their extreme severity. Each listing defines what objective medical findings must be present to meet it.

Diabetes is included under the Listings for Endocrine Disorders. Because endocrine disorders involve gland-producing hormones at imbalanced levels that impact the body in a variety of ways, the SSA uses listings for other body systems to evaluate DM and other glandular problems.

The listing explains that for DM, analysis depends on whether there is too much glucose (hyperglycemia) or too little (hypoglycemia). Hyperglycemia can cause diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, that usually requires hospitalization and treatment with severe side effects. Those side effects are evaluated under the body system listings for resulting conditions, which may involve cardiac arrhythmias, intestinal necrosis, cerebral edema, seizures and others. DKA is also associated with mood or eating disorders, which have their own listings for evaluations.

Chronic hyperglycemia also causes symptoms severe enough to fall under other listings, like gangrene causing amputation of a limb or cognitive impairment.

Hypoglycemia may result in seizures, loss of consciousness, cognitive problems or “altered mental status,” all evaluated under different listings.

If a claimant’s DM does not meet or equal a listed impairment, the SSA will then evaluate whether the person could return to previous relevant work or engage in other work after considering their medical limitations, age, skills and education.


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