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Does Diabetes Make You Eligible for Social Security or SSI Benefits?

Diabetes can have a severe impact on your life. There are several complications that may come with diabetes, and the extra medical care you need can be expensive. However, diabetes by itself not enough to qualify you for social security disability benefits.

These benefits are in place to help those who have conditions that keep them from earning enough money to live on. Because diabetes can often be managed with insulin, lifestyle changes and other medical interventions, many diabetics can still work and have a successful career.


So, when does having diabetes qualify you for Social Security assistance? Here’s what you need to know. 


When you apply for social security disability, you will need to show that having diabetes limits your potential to fully provide for your basic needs.

For example, many diabetics can manage their condition with either oral medication or insulin, and have little concern for blood sugar throughout the day.  Diabetes does not affect all people in the same way.  


Some people with diabetes qualify for social security benefits because of common diabetic complications. Diabetes of your body’s systems, and over time, some tissues and nerves may be damaged permanently. Here are some examples:

Damage to Your Eyesight

Diabetic retinopathy can affect your vision. In more severe cases, diabetic retinopathy can even cause blindness. You may not be able to drive yourself to work, see well enough to do most jobs, or keep yourself safe while working.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage (neuropathy) can occur with diabetes. Diabetics may develop numbness in the hands and feet, and even have trouble with nerve response in the digestive system (gastroparesis). Fine and gross motor skills might be affected. This a very important limitation in the Social Security disability analysis.

Limb Loss

Sometimes, damage to tissues and blood vessels can be so severe that the limb must be removed. Lost legs, fingers, hands, toes and feet can drastically affect what type of work you are able to perform.


Having diabetes can cause your body to develop ketoacidosis. If you frequently have acidosis, uncontrollable diabetes, or brittle diabetes despite following the doctor’s advice, this can prevent you from working.

Secondary Diseases

Diabetes can make it difficult to heal from other illnesses and infections. It can also cause strain to major organs, especially the kidneys and liver. 

These conditions, including the increased complexity and reduced physical capacity these cause, should be well documented. For example, it might be challenging for a person who has blood vessel damage in the feet to spend the day sitting at a desk or standing at a counter. 

Doctor’s Advice

Some patients do not manage their condition properly. When diabetes is not managed well, the above conditions are more likely to develop. With disability benefits, it’s essential that you show complete compliance to your doctor’s treatment plans and prescriptions, or your benefits may not be approved.

This means that if your doctor requires specific lifestyle changes, you should show that you are making an effort to implement them. If you are instructed to take insulin but choose not to, you contribute to making your disability worse. Do not forgo treatment in order to qualify for benefits; your condition will worsen, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) may not award you benefits.

For more information about starting your Social Security Disability or SSI application, contact us at Glen Cook, Social Security Attorney.