Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Diabetic Neuropathy - How bad do I have to be to File for Social Security Disability

Someone recently asked this question online to which someone else basically responded "To qualify for social security disability benefits, you basically have to be unable to do any work".

Was this answer correct? Not even slightly though it seems to be fairly common even for informed individuals, even those who work within the disability system (as disability examiners, field office claims reps, and disability representatives) to make such a statement--that a claimant must be unable to work at all if they hope to receive disability benefits.

However, the truth is simply that a person can work and be considered for disability--as long as their earnings do not exceed a certain gross monthly income amount. This amount changes from year to year and it is referred to as SGA, or substantial gainful activity.

SGA is a concept that actually lends some fairness to the social security disability process. How so? Because the use of SGA recognizes the fact that a disabled individual may, in some cases, be able to work without actually being able to work to the extent that they can earn an income that will actually support them.

Diabetes is given consideration in disability applications in its own listing (listings, or listed conditions, are conditions that are specifically designated in the blue book, or social security disability list of impairments) and diabetic neuropathy is given consideration within that listing.

From the disability secrets page: Evidence of Neuropathy that must be demonstrated by "significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities" (conceivably, two arms, two legs, or one arm and one leg). This neuropathy must also result in a "sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.

However, as an examiner for social security I found that most claims predicated mainly on diabetes and neuropathy alone had difficulty in gaining approval.

Having said that, though, it was also true that few cases involved only diabetes and its complications (neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy) alone. Instead, most disability cases involve a plethora of conditions, meaning that a claimant with diabetes and diabetic neuropahty, whose condition fails to meet the diabetes listing, is typically evaluated the way most claimants with non-listed impairments are evaluated.

That is, 1) the claimant's records are read and evaluated, 2) the disability adjudicator--a judge or a disability examiner, depending on the level the claim is at--determines the claimant's residual functional capacity, i.e. what they still can do, and 3) this remaining capacity is compared to the demands of the claimant's past work and the demands of other work for which it might be possible for them to transition to.

As I've said on this blog many times, the name of the condition, mental or physical, is largely irrelevant. Social security, instead, is concerned with the extent to which a claimant's condition inhibits their ability to engage in work activity.

Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog

Other Posts

Social Security disability reviews
Understanding the Social Security Definition of Disability
Graves Disease Social Security Disability SSI - Applying for Disability
To get Social Security Disability or SSI do I need to be disabled for a whole year?
What is the definition of disability used by Social Security for a child?

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