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Can you get Social Security Disability for diabetes?

Can you get Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits if you have diabetes?

The short answer is, "Maybe." The long answer depends on a myriad of different factors that all have to be considered.

It's important to understand that the definition of a disability for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the definition for Social Security are wildly different -- even though both of them come from the federal government. Merely having diabetes qualifies as a disability for the purposes of the ADA. If you need reasonable accommodations to work, for example, you're covered.

Not so, with Social Security. In order to qualify as a disability, your diabetes has to prevent you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity for at least a year (or be expected to do so). When considering your condition, Social Security is supposed to consider any side effects caused by your diabetes or medications -- like fatigue, periods of irritability or confusion due to blood sugar lows, problems with chronic skin infections and neuropathic pain in your hands or feet.

If your diabetes is well-controlled with diet or insulin and you don't have a lot of side-effects from your condition or medications, the odds are good that you won't be approved.

On the other hand, if you have kept your doctor carefully in the loop about your struggles with low blood sugar, documented your highs and lows on the glucometer you carry and added the readout to your medical records, had periods of hospitalization and suffered from infections or wounds that wouldn't heal, you could be approved.

Because it can be difficult to gain approval based on diabetes alone -- since modern medicine has helped most people gain pretty good control over the disease -- it's smart to include any other conditions you have as part of your disability. You should do so even if you think they are minor or unimportant. Social Security will evaluate all your conditions together to see if they combine to equal a disability -- and you never know what might tip you over the edge to an approval.

Source: American Diabetes Association, "Is Diabetes a Disability?," accessed May 18, 2018

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