Top 6 Client Questions about Getting Social Security Disability Benefits for Diabetes

1.  How do I prove that I am disabled due to diabetes?

Diabetes can be a very serious disease with multiple complications.  As with any claim for social security disability benefits, it is imperative that you treat regularly with a doctor, and follow their recommendations.  Lab reports are going to be important to show fluctuating blood sugar levels despite a regular course of treatment.  It is also essential that your symptoms are documented within your medical records.  Try to be as specific as possible when discussing your symptoms with your doctor.  For example, if you suffer from numbness in your hands and feet, tell your doctor exactly what activities are affected –such as using a computer, picking up change, or standing for extended periods of time.

Your medical diagnoses and treatment will be analyzed in conjunction with Social Security’s regulations which are called “Listings of Impairments.”  The primary listing for diabetes is Endocrine listing 9.08:


9.08 Diabetes mellitus. With:

A. Neuropathy demonstrated by significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station (see 11.00C); or

B. Acidosis occurring at least on the average of once every 2 months documented by appropriate blood chemical tests (pH or pC02 or bicarbonate levels); or

C. Retinitis proliferans; evaluate the visual impairment under the criteria in 2.02, 2.03, or 2.04.

* In order to be approved for benefits, you must prove at least one of the above requirements.*

2.  What is neuropathy and how do I prove it?

Neuropathy is nerve damage.  Symptoms may include muscle weakness, cramping, spasms, tingling, numbness, and pain.  To meet the listing based on neuropathy, the claimant must show that at least two of his or her extremities (arms or legs) have such nerve damage that he or she has difficulty using them due to pain, numbness, etc.  An individual’s ability to stand and walk will be analyzed, as well as balance and coordination.

If you have been experiencing numbness, weakness, and pain and have not been diagnosed with neuropathy, it is extremely important that you bring this to your doctor’s attention.  Specific testing needs to be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.

3.  What is acidosis and how does Social Security view it?

Acidosis is defined as excess acid in the body fluids.  Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a potentially life-threatening complication in patients with diabetes mellitus, resulting from a shortage of insulin.  It may occur due to illness, poor compliance with insulin therapy, or other reasons.  Symptoms may include vomiting, dehydration, difficulty breathing, confusion, and coma.  Without proper treatment, diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to death.  Again, an individual must do their best to follow prescribed treatment for diabetes in order to be found disabled.

4.  What is retinitis proliferans and when might this allow an approval for benefits?

Retinitis proliferans is inflammation of the retina.  Diabetic retinopathy is analyzed under the third sub-section of the Diabetes Mellitus listing.  Social Security will evaluate a person’s vision difficulties under the following listings:

  • Loss of Visual Acuity (2.02)
  • Contraction of the Visual Fields in the Better Eye (2.03)
  • Loss of Visual Efficiency (2.04)

A person meets this listing if their vision after correction in the best eye is 20/200 or less, or other technical requirements involving their peripheral vision and loss of visual efficiency.

5.  What if my symptoms from diabetes do not meet Social Security’s Listing of Impairments?

 If your diabetes does not meet or equal Social Security’s criteria under the listings, your symptoms may still cause significant functional limitations which may prove you are unable to work.  An individual may have difficulty walking, standing, or may need to elevate their legs throughout the day.  Numbness in one’s hands may prove difficulty with tasks such as writing, typing, and using small objects.  Vision problems may prevent an individual from reading, using a computer, using small objects, or avoiding hazards in a work environment.  The functional limitations in combination may be enough to prove that no work would exist in the national economy for this individual.

6.  I received my first denial in the mail.  Now what?

Most claims are denied at the initial and reconsideration levels.  It is important not to give up, follow the appeal timelines, and being fully prepared at the time of a disability hearing.  Having representation and medical record documentation will make for the best chance of success.  If you have not hired a lawyer, you should get legal advice about your particular situation.  If you wish to call us about legal help with your Social Security disability claim, you can reach us toll-free at:   1-800-850-7867 or through

Laura Ross, Esq.

→ For a free Hoglund Lawyer Guide to Social Security Hearings, click here:  Free Guide

© 2010, Hoglund Law Offices.  Reprint with written permission.

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

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