Posts in:August, 2020

Social Security Disability for Diabetes

Posted August 28, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

An individual may qualify for Social Security disability benefits based on uncontrolled diabetes or related symptoms and/or co-morbidities like peripheral neuropathy, kidney disease, or poor vision. While diabetes that is well-controlled with medication won’t typically form the basis of a successful claim on its own, most disability applicants with diabetes also suffer from other medical problems that limit their ability to work. When filing for disability benefits for diabetes, it’s important to list all your symptoms and diagnoses, even those unrelated to your diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition marked by an inability to process glucose in the blood. When the pancreas fails to produce sufficient amounts of the hormone insulin, which sends signals to other body cells to absorb excess glucose, blood sugar levels rise. Elevated blood sugar levels often can be controlled through medication and diet, but persistently high blood sugar levels may give rise to neuropathy (nerve damage) causing numbness, burning, and tingling in the extremities. Other complications of diabetes include cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, skin infections, and visual changes.

Type 1 diabetes, often referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes, typically manifests in childhood and requires daily insulin injections and monitoring of blood sugar levels. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes are unable to produce the insulin which regulates blood sugar levels. Only about five to ten percent of diabetic individuals suffer from Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, occurs when the body’s cells become resistant to insulin and thus fail to process sufficient amounts of glucose. Type 2 diabetes is most common in those over 45, and it is strongly associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and a sedentary lifestyle. Genetic factors also play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is generally treated by endocrinologists, who prescribe medication, blood sugar monitoring, and lifestyle changes to control the disease.

In 2011, Social Security removed its disability listings for endocrine disorders, including diabetes, from its “Blue Book”, a list of impairments that automatically qualify for disability. As a result, it’s no longer possible to get approved for disability based on a listing specifically for diabetes, but you may be able to “meet” other listings depending on the severity of your symptoms. For example, a person can match the requirements for Listing 11.14 for peripheral neuropathy, when he or she, in spite of treatment, experiences involuntary movements, tremors, or partial paralysis in two extremities that makes it difficult to walk or use his or her hands. Diabetic retinopathy that causes less than 20/200 vision in the better eye would meet Listing 2.02. Other complications and co-morbidities related to diabetes, from kidney failure to cardiovascular issues to amputation of a limb, could also meet or “equal” one of the Blue Book listings.

Even if you do not meet or equal a listing, you can still qualify for disability under a medical-vocational allowance if the symptoms of your diabetes prevent you from performing your past work or any other jobs in the economy. A medical-vocational allowance takes into account your age, education, vocational history, and residual functional capacity (RFC) in deciding whether you’re capable of meeting the demands of any full-time work. Your RFC is an assessment that how much you can still do despite your impairments. For example, an individual with peripheral neuropathy might submit medical evidence mentioning an unsteady gait, poor fine motor control, or numbness and tingling in the extremities. Or an individual with chronic hyperglycemia might submit evidence from a psychiatrist documenting difficulty concentrating and fatigue that in1terferes with his or her ability to sustain full-time work.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®


Social Security Disability for Brain Injuries

Posted August 14, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are becoming a more common diagnosis for claimants needing Social Security disability benefits, with advances in testing and imaging as well as more publicity from injured veterans and athletes. These disabilities are not always easy to prove.

Many of the symptoms of TBI are subtle. Also, because most of the patients are not good historians due to their brain injuries and often lack self-insight, proof of total disability is challenging. The involvement of family members and friends is helpful for reporting symptoms to the treating physicians.

It is not uncommon for those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury to experience physical difficulties as well as a change in cognitive abilities, the ability to concentrate, personality, mood changes, or social functioning. Others also have trouble with language, which can result in ineffective speech or communication. Some impairments may heal over time, and some functions may be regained some through therapy, while other impairments will not improve—or they may actually get worse over time.

Until October 2016, the Social Security Administration evaluated traumatic brain injuries under disability listings for other types of medical conditions. Now, the regulations cover brain damage caused by skull fracture, a closed head injury, or penetration by an object into the brain tissue.

If Social Security does not find that your limitations are so severe that you are disabled under the listing (see below), it then must evaluate whether your limitations are legitimately keeping you from working. Social Security will assess your physical and mental limitations using a physical residual functional capacity (RFC) form and a mental residual functional capacity (MRFC) form. These forms note a wide variety of limitations that can affect your ability to work, such as problems concentrating, standing, walking, and so on.

Multiple moderate limitations across several areas may make you unable to work, even though you don’t have marked or extreme limitations in any one area. An inability to return to your previous job, however, is not necessarily enough to get you approved for Social Security disability benefits. You must not be able to work any job, even one like a “surveillance system monitor,” which requires few skills and limited physical activity. Social Security will consider your age, education, and work experience when assessing your ability to do any work. Social Security recognizes that the older one is, the harder it is to learn a new job, particularly if an applicant has cognitive difficulties.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

See Adult Listing 11.18 (Traumatic Brain Injury):

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Can I Reopen My Previous Disability Claim?

Posted August 7, 2020 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

If you are denied benefits and decide not to appeal your claim – or if you miss the deadline for your appeal – then the Social Security Administration (SSA) will close your case. However, you may be able to have the claim reopened at a later date if you file a new claim and it is related to the original one.

Your entitlement to benefits is tied to your application date. If you are awarded Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you are entitled to benefits beginning on either the date of your application, or the date you became disabled (whichever is latest in time); if you are awarded Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you are entitled to benefits beginning either 12 months prior to your application date or five months after you became disabled (again, whichever is latest in time). If your prior claim is reopened, the SSA will use the date of your first application as the date from which you may be eligible for these back benefits. This means that you may be entitled to more back-pay if you claim is reopened.

To be reopened, a prior disability claim needs to be related to the current disability claim (for example, an initial claim for herniated disc and a second claim for herniated disc and spinal stenosis). The SSA will not reopen a prior claim that is based on a disability that is unrelated to the current claim. In addition, the onset date of your disability on your second claim must be within the timeframe covered by your first application. The SSA has not created a particular form or process for claimants who want to reopen a claim. To reopen a claim, you must file a new application for disability benefits and ask the SSA to reopen your old claim.

Whether Social Security will reopen a prior claim depends on how old it is:

  • Prior Claim Less Than 1 Year Old: A prior claim that became final after Disability Determination Services (DDS) or an administrative law judge made an initial determination can be reopened within 12 months of the date of the decision for any reason. After 12 months has passed, it becomes more difficult to reopen a claim.
  • Prior Claim 2-4 Years Old: The rules for reopening claims more than 12 months old are different for SSI and SSDI, but in either case, it is a difficult thing to do. The SSA can reopen a SSDI claim within four years if it finds good cause to reopen the old claim, and can reopen an SSI claim within two years if it finds that there is good cause to reopen the claim. For both SSI and SSDI, good cause is defined as having new and material evidence about the claim, finding a clerical error in the way benefits were calculated, or when the written DDS decision shows error “on its face.”
  • Prior Claim More Than 4 Years Old: The SSA will reopen a case that has been closed for more than four years only for a few very specific and rare reasons. SSI claims can be reopened at any time if there was fraud or similar fault. Examples are when someone knowingly made false statements or left out information that can affect the outcome of the decision. SSDI claims can be reopened at any time if there was fraud or similar fault, but also to correct a mistake in computing benefits, to correct an error that is evident on the face of the written decision, or for a few other unusual reasons, like if the denial was based on a criminal conviction that was later overturned.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.


By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®