If you have diabetes and suffer from nerve damage as a result, it’s possible that you’ll qualify for disability due to diabetic neuropathy.

Because high blood sugar can damage the body’s delicate nerve fibers, those with neuropathy may experience lessened ability to walk, stand, or control muscle movements. In some cases, chronic pain results, further diminishing the patient’s ability to engage in daily tasks.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance program pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning you worked and paid Social Security taxes for a sufficient time to qualify for benefits.

The Social Security Disability Insurance handbook addresses peripheral neuropathy in listing 11.14 and outlines the conditions under which your disability claim will be approved.

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  1. Interference with the movement of two extremities (including fingers, wrists, hands, arms, and shoulders) including two lower extremities, two upper extremities, or a combination of the two. Includes those conditions that limit your ability to stand from a seated position, balance, or use the upper extremities.
  2. Marked limitation in physical functioning as well as:
  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  • Adapting or managing oneself

If you don’t meet these criteria, it’s still possible that you will be approved for disability if your neuropathy limits you in other ways. Social Security will examine your medical history, age, education, work skills, and functional limitations in order to determine disability.

The Social Security Administration requires both medical and non-medical evidence to document your condition, which includes lab tests, imaging, medical history, and your own statements about restrictions.

The SSA has created a disability claims video series to help you understand the process of filing for disability as well as the roles of the different components involved in the decision-making. It also offers an online questionnaire to help you determine what benefits you might qualify for under the program.

If your application for disability is denied, the SSA also offers an internet appeals process that allows you to provide changes in your medical condition since the denial, new medical information, and supporting documents.  

Handicap parking

When peripheral neuropathy interferes with your ability to balance, stand, or walk, parking a long distance from a store or building can present a significant challenge.

The application process for a handicap placard varies according to the state you live in and is generally managed by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. The process always involves verification from a doctor that your condition limits your mobility.

Generally speaking, many state requirements include:

  • Inability to walk an extended distance without stopping to rest
  • Inability to walk without the help of an assistive device or another person
  • Need to use portable oxygen
  • Evidence of a severe heart condition
  • Restrictions caused by lung disease

Begin with your state’s DMV to determine what forms and documentation you’ll be required to submit with your application.

Required documents

In order to streamline the process, understand the importance of having medical documentation of your condition. Updated MRIs, motor function tests, and nerve tests often demonstrate the patient’s limited motor function.

Ask about a Residual Functional Capacity test, which any licensed physician can complete. The test will measure your ability to lift, reach, stand, sit, or walk. Lower scores indicate a greater need for disability support.

Consider, too, that your inability to work may qualify you for benefits as well. Testimonies from previous employers may help demonstrate your inability to do certain kinds of work.

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Considerations

Diabetic neuropathy affects as many as 70 percent of diabetics and can be a debilitating problem. It can occur in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and controlled blood glucose levels can prevent or delay the onset of neuropathy.

Although neuropathy can make routine movement challenging, remember that exercise can moderate glucose and improve circulation.

Contact your doctor with any questions you may have about neuropathy and its impact on your life.

Debby Montgomery Johnson, President, and CEO at BenfoComplete.