When Diabetes Steals Your Livelihood

People who are unable to work due to the complications of diabetes need the benefits to which they are entitled under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

| Nov 30, 2010

Too often our preconceptions of work-limiting disabilities are confined to suddenly devastating conditions, such as spinal cord injury or stroke. We rarely consider how diseases such as diabetes can be just as debilitating and just as costly to a family. With November being recognized as National Diabetes Awareness Month, we should remember the people who are unable to work due to the complications of diabetes and who need the benefits to which they are entitled under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

That was the case with Theresa Edwards, an Odenton, Md., resident whose diabetes medications made her unable to focus on work. She lost her job as a customer service representative because she couldn't function while on the medications she needed to be taking. For Theresa, it was a choice between working and surviving.

Theresa was let go in March 2005 and was forced to rely on her daughter for support. Theresa's struggle was made even worse by a tragic lack of understanding about the SSDI application process. SSDI is a federally mandated insurance fund that every taxpaying worker contributes toward to provide them with insurance if they experience a severe, long-term disability.

Theresa had been told that she shouldn't apply for disability benefits because she would be rejected. It's true that diabetes is one of the most frequently denied conditions. Statistics show that 81 percent of applicants with diabetes are denied benefits when they first apply.

The complexity of diabetes-including its causes, effects, and treatments-can add to the difficulty in successfully navigating the SSDI application and review process. But dealing with a multi-layered bureaucracy is only part of the problem. Applicants also must contend with lengthy wait times that have become inherent in dealing with the Social Security Administration. What results is a recipe for frustration and, in many cases, serious financial strain.

Applicants may wait up to six months on average for an initial determination on their claim, and another six months for reconsideration if they are denied, depending on where they live. After the initial application and first appeal, applicants who appeal a second time are added to the waiting list for an administrative law judge to hear their case. At that level, they are likely to wait more than a year for a decision on their claim. The national average wait for a hearing is now 415 days. Hundreds more days could be added to the wait for benefits if a claim is still denied after the hearing.

All told, the process could take more than two-and-a-half years for those unfortunate enough to have to wade through the first four steps. Imagine nearly three years with little or no steady income, a family to support, and mounting medical bills for treatment of your disability.

Knowing the odds were against her, in April 2008 Theresa took the bold step of getting help. Less than two years later, she was awarded the benefits she needed and deserved. Theresa gave me permission to use her real name and situation because she knows what the struggle is like, and she wants the hundreds of thousands of Americans in similar circumstances to know they are not alone.

Folks who are struggling with a misunderstood disease often feel more hopeless in the face of an overwhelming and unpromising claims process. But they need to know there is hope. They can get the help they need and the benefits that they've already paid for in FICA tax dollars. That's why SSDI exists.

Jim Allsup is the founder, president, and chief executive offer of Allsup Inc., a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance representation and Medicare plan selection services.

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Categories: Complications & Care, Diabetes, Diabetes, Government & Policy, Health Care, Health Insurance, Medications, Type 1 Issues, Type 2 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 1 December 2010

This article is a little bit scary. With all the new medications out there for diabetes, why wasn't any found to allow this woman to work and manage her disease? Work is as much a quality of life issue as an issue of self sustenance. Is this woman's life any better because she is able to collect a check? I think that someone dropped the ball with this woman medically and then she was given poor advice about her options. This is very sad for her.

Posted by chanson3633 on 3 December 2010

A common situation is that of the commercial driver who is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and subsequently requires insulin. When they start taking insulin, they are no longer eligible to hold the commercial drivers license. So, typically, the 50-year old driver with 25 years experience ends up working at Wal-Mart for $8/hour.

Posted by Anonymous on 3 December 2010

This article was written by someone whose job it is to obtain disability determinations for his clients. I view this as little more than a shameless plug for a business which is paid by ensuring their clients get labeled as being unable to care for themselves. There are many chronic diabetics (yours truly, diagnosed 44 yes ago) who take pride in providing for ourselves, and not having our self-worth taken away by becoming a burden on an already over-burdened system. Shame on you for printing this nonsense.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 December 2010

There are many options between disability and working at WalMart. It's shameful that people are only told of such limiting options. Promoting entitlement instead of progress is very sad indeed. Raise expectations. Life is much more fulfilling that way than listening to some lawyer offering you an opportunity to stay home with nothing to do and no money to do it wiht.

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