How to Qualify for Social Security Disability with Diabetes

This article addresses the following:  is diabetes a disability, what is diabetes, what are the symptoms of diabetes, how to file for disability benefits with diabetes, and the importance of seeking help if needed. 

Diabetes - Condition

Diabetes is a medical condition in which a person’s level of glucose, or blood sugar, is elevated.

In a properly functioning circulatory system, blood carries glucose to all the cells in the body in order to produce energy, while the pancreas produces insulin to help the body absorb excess glucose. High levels of glucose in the blood are an indication that the body is not producing enough insulin, or that the insulin produced is not working as it should to help the body absorb glucose, indicating a Diabetic or pre-Diabetic condition.

There are three types of Diabetes:

  • Type 1, or “juvenile” Diabetes
  • Type 2, or “adult onset” Diabetes, and
  • Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is the medical name for both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Pre-Diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are elevated, indicating that an individual has a high risk of developing full-fledged Diabetes.

Diabetes is a very serious disease which can result in high blood pressure, damage to the eyes, nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease, blindness, and stroke. In addition, it is not uncommon for a long term diabetic to loose limbs to amputation because of poor circulation. So, naturally, many people wonder:  is diabetes a disability?


The presence of Diabetes is generally indicated by some combination of several symptoms. A diabetic will often experience unexplained:

  • frequent need to urinate, especially if it is combined with extreme thirst,
  • chronic hunger, especially between meals,
  • fatigue,
  • weight loss, and/or
  • general feelings of irritability

Many diabetics report dry, itchy skin and trouble with genital itching and fungal infections. A tingling sensation or numbness in the feet is another indication, as is blurred vision. Finally, the skin of many diabetics is slow to heal from wounds, skin abrasions, or sores.

Diagnosis of Diabetes can be established through three types of blood tests. They are:

  1. A fasting plasma glucose test, which is given after an 8-hour fast;
  2. An oral glucose tolerance test, which is given after an 8-hour fast followed by the administration of a glucose-containing beverage and an additional 2 hour wait; or
  3. A random plasma glucose test, which measures blood glucose without any kind of fast.

The random plasma glucose test cannot be used to test for pre-Diabetes. If the test results indicate the presence of a Diabetic condition, the patient must undergo additional tests to confirm the diagnosis. 

Diabetes may qualify you for Social Security disability benefits.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Diabetes Diagnosis

So, is diabetes a disability?

Diabetes is listed in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) impairment listing manual, or “Blue Book,” as a condition which can qualify a person for Social Security Disability. The SSA makes no distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, however, and no mention is made in the Diabetes listing of any of the severe health problems caused by the condition.

Fortunately, many of these severe health problems are listed in the Blue Book as separate disabling conditions, as the SSA’s qualification criteria focus on the actual health problems that affect an applicant’s ability to function in work and basic tasks, rather than specifically on a Diabetes diagnosis.

Impairments that Qualify for Diabetes Disability Benefits

In order to qualify for disability benefits on the basis of Diabetes, your doctor must diagnose you as having Diabetes mellitus (Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes) and at least one of the following conditions:

  1. Neuropathy - abnormality of the nervous system that must significantly affect two extremities to the extent that a person experiences a “sustained disturbance” of movement of those extremities, or in walking, or in simply standing.
  2. Acidosis - the abnormal increase in the acidity of bodily fluid that occurs at least once in every two months and which is documented by blood tests.
  3. Diabetic Retinopathy - damage to blood vessels inside the eye resulting in a significant loss of peripheral vision in the better of the two eyes, or a significant loss of visual acuity in the better of the two eyes. To meet this criterion, the severity of the damage must be such that the person is virtually blind.


Most of the time, applicants will be approved for disability benefits on the basis of Diabetes only in conjunction with one or more other disabling conditions that have been caused by the disease.

Approval for Social Security Disability benefits will probably be in the form of a medical vocational allowance if it is found that you are unable to return to your previous employment or perform any new type of work due to the severity of these conditions.

You Could Earn Up to $40,140 a Year! Get a Free Case Evaluation

If you are disabled because of the health impairments caused by Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes prevent you from working, you may very well be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. To see how much you could earn for disability with diabetes, use our disability calculator to see how much you could be able to earn in disability benefits.

Although total disability based on Diabetes and its related conditions can be difficult to prove compared to other disabling conditions, working closely with your doctors and a qualified Social Security Disability attorney or disability advocate can help to ensure that your Diabetes disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.

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