Is Diabetic Retinopathy a Qualifying Disability?
Retinopathy is a condition associated with diabetes affecting an individual’s vision. Retinopathy causes damage to the retina, which are the blood vessels in the tissue in the back of the eye. When the retina is damaged, you may experience blurry vision, seeing floaters, difficulty distinguishing colors and even blindness. Damage to the retina is caused by changes in your blood glucose levels. Like most conditions, retinopathy ranges from mild to severe symptoms.
The Stages of Retinopathy
There are four determining stages of diabetic retinopathy:
- The first stage is classified as mild with only small areas of damage in the retina.
- The second stage, known as moderate nonproliferative retinopathy, is where some of the blood vessels in the retina become blocked, causing an increase in vision loss.
- The third stage is considered severe, as there are more blocked blood vessels which in effect prevent the retina from growing new blood vessels to replace the damaged one.
- The fourth stage is the most advanced stage, where you will see the most vision loss and possible blindness.
Treatment for Retinopathy
Individuals suffering from diabetes mellitus, whether type I or type II, will likely be recommended to have regular eye examinations. This is to ensure early detection of retinopathy. While there is no cure for retinopathy, the best treatment is to control your diabetes. Other treatments for retinopathy may include injection therapy, laser treatment or surgery, depending upon the severity of the retinopathy. Certain drugs can be given in an effort to reduce fluid buildup in the retina and reverse blood vessel growths. For any of these treatments, you will likely need to see a vision specialist such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist in the most advanced cases.
Diabetic retinopathy is directly related to the underlying condition of diabetes mellitus. The best way to treat or prevent retinopathy from occurring is to have good control over your diabetes. In the event your diabetes is uncontrolled and you are suffering from severe retinopathy affecting your vision, you are more than likely having trouble working. If you find yourself in a position where you are unable to work as a result of said vision loss the social security disability program may be right for you.
Diabetic Retinopathy – Does it Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
When applying for social security disability benefits, you must prove you are unable to work in any capacity, with a few exceptions. This means showing the social security administration you are 100% disabled. To be found disabled under the social security regulations, you are either 100% disabled or not. A finding of disability is not based on only one condition. It is based upon a combination of conditions in which you suffer ranging from the effects of your diabetes, your vision loss from retinopathy, and even the effects of depression as a result of your uncontrolled diabetes. Social security reviews how all of your medical conditions, whether physical or psychological, impact your ability to perform certain activities. So, if you are suffering some form of vision loss associated with retinopathy, you likely have a number of other conditions that when combined together may equate to you being 100% disabled under the social security administration’s regulations.
Filing for Social Security Disability Benefits
The first step in determining if you are 100% disabled is filing your application for benefits. Here’s what you need to know:
- This application can be done online, at your local social security office, or over the phone through social security’s national number. The best way to start your claim is to file an application online with the assistance of an experienced disability attorney. This provides you not only the comfort of your home but also allows your attorney to present the facts of your situation in the best light possible.
- Once your application has been submitted, the social security administration will evaluate your claim to see if you first meet the technical requirements of the program. To technically qualify for the social security disability insurance program you must have worked long enough and paid enough in taxes into the social security system to have this disability insurance coverage. As long as you have worked the past five out of ten years you will likely meet the technical requirements of the program.
- Once it is established you are covered by the disability insurance program, the next step is for the social security administration to determine if you meet the medical requirements. At this step, the social security administration will determine if your claim meets social security’s definition of disability.
The term “disability” has very different meanings depending upon the program you are applying for. For instance, if you are applying for disability benefits through your private disability insurance carrier, they are likely only going to evaluate your ability to perform the work you were currently doing. If you are applying for disability benefits through the veteran’s administration, they will determine if your condition is service-connected and then the percentage of disability it causes. Another program would be through workers’ compensation. That program only looks at the medical conditions caused or arising from an accident at work, with a disability rating assigned to them as well. The social security disability program is the only program requiring an all-or-nothing type of situation. You are either fully precluded from performing any type of work, or not…of course with a few exceptions.
In determining whether you are disabled in terms of social security disability, the social security administration will use a five-step analysis of your claim:
- The first step in the analysis is to ensure you are not currently working or engaging in substantial gainful activity.
- The second step is determining whether your medical conditions, either singularly or in combination, qualify as a medically determinable impairment. This is any impairment that poses more than a minimal impact upon your ability to perform work duties.
- The third step in the analysis is whether you meet or equal one of social security’s listed impairments. This is a list of conditions which social security has deemed disabling as long as certain criteria are met.
- The fourth step is determining whether your condition precludes you from performing any work you performed in the past fifteen years on a significant level.
- The fifth step considers whether there are other jobs in which you could perform in spite of your conditions and functional limitations.
Contact LaBovick Law Group for your Disability Claim
The evaluation process, both technical and medical, while not intended to be complicated in effect are quite difficult to maneuver through. If you believe your retinopathy with underlying diabetes along with any other conditions you may suffer from, impacts your ability to work you should apply for this program. At the LaBovick Law Group, we handle disability claims from the very beginning with the initial application, all the way through to the end. We provide all of our clients a free initial consultation to determine whether this program is the right fit for you. If it is, we would be happy to handle your claim, taking some of the stress off your shoulders in terms of proving your disability.