Is Diabetes a Disability?

In this article...
  • Our disability benefits review explores whether type 1 and type 2 diabetes are officially considered disabilities in the United States and what this means for social security disability benefits.

Is Diabetes Considered a Disability in the United States? 

Approximately 34.2 million Americans, or more than one in 10, live with diabetes. Additionally, a further 88 million have prediabetes. That means roughly a third of adults in the United States have a substantial risk of developing diabetes in the future. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or at significant risk of developing the condition, you may wonder whether the government considers diabetes a disability.

Is Type 1 Diabetes Classed as a Disability?

There are two types of diabetes to consider. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition caused when the body attacks its own cells, making them unable to produce the hormone insulin. 

The body needs insulin to move glucose, a type of sugar, from the blood into its cells for energy. Without insulin, the level of glucose in the blood gets too high. 

Insulin injections help people with type 1 diabetes reduce the glucose level in their blood and manage their condition. Type 1 diabetes is officially classified as a disability.

Is Type 2 Diabetes Classed as a Disability?

The bodies of people with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but they may not make enough, or their cells may not respond to it the way they should. 

As with type 1 diabetes, these insulin problems elevate blood sugar levels. However, with medications, diet and exercise, people with type 2 diabetes can manage their condition. Type 2 diabetes is also classed as a disability.

Is Diabetes a Long-Term Disability?

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition, so it’s regarded as a long-term disability. With diet and exercise, people with type 2 diabetes can become asymptomatic and no longer need medication. For these people, diabetes is not a long-term disability.

What Does the Disability Classification of Diabetes Mean?

As diabetes qualifies as a disability, those with the condition are legally protected against discrimination. People living with diabetes should have the same access to job opportunities as everyone else.

They should also feel confident that their school, office and public places are safe environments where they won’t face harassment because of their medical condition. These places should make reasonable accommodation to ensure they meet the needs of people with diabetes.

Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits With Diabetes?

While diabetes is a disability, that doesn’t mean every individual with diabetes is eligible for disability benefits. 

In most cases, your health must severely limit what you can do in your daily life. The Social Security Administration removed diabetes from its Listing of Impairments, known as the Blue Book, in 2011. 

To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as someone with diabetes today, you must also have at least one of the following diabetic complications:

  • Acidosis: Abnormally acidic bodily fluids
  • Diabetic neuropathy: Difficulty moving your hands, feet, arms or legs
  • Severe diabetic retinopathy: Damage to your eye’s blood vessels, leading to vision impairment or loss
  • Poorly healing skin and bacterial infections: These must last longer than three months
  • Diabetic nephropathy: Impairs kidney function
  • Cardiovascular problems: Including coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, peripheral vascular disease or irregular heartbeat
  • Foot amputations: Due to nerve damage and poor circulation triggered by diabetes

In most cases, your health conditions should prevent you from working for at least a year before you become eligible. However, you may get disability insurance earlier if doctors believe diabetes may end your life within a year. 

Those under the age of 18 may also receive benefits if their families have limited incomes and resources. Children under age six with type 1 diabetes needing daily insulin also automatically qualify as disabled.

How Do I Get Social Security Benefits?

If you think you qualify for Social Security benefits, you can complete the application process in two ways:

  • Complete an online application
  • Call the regular toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 or TTY number (for hard of hearing) 1-800-325-0778 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays. A representative will arrange an appointment for you at your local Social Security Administration field office.

If Social Security approves your claim, you will typically start receiving payments after five months. If it denies your claim, you can appeal the decision. A Social Security disability attorney can help you present your case to an administrative law judge.

Receive Your Diabetes Entitlements

Although diabetes is a common condition, it’s still formally recognized as a disability in the United States. While diabetes doesn’t need to hold you back from living your life, a diabetes diagnosis protects you from discrimination because of your health. It could also mean you’re eligible for benefits and compensation. 

If you have diabetes, research potential benefits thoroughly to ensure you’re claiming everything you’re entitled to. 

About the Author

Zia Sherrell is a digital health journalist with over a decade of healthcare experience, a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Leeds and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Manchester. Her work has appeared in Netdoctor, Medical News Today, Healthline, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, Yahoo, Harper's Bazaar, Men's Health and more.

When she’s not typing madly, Zia enjoys traveling and chasing after her dogs.

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