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What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer and Does it Qualify for Social Security Disability?


An ulcer, in the very most basic sense, is an open sore or wound that takes longer than normal to heal or keeps returning. Ulcers may appear in many different forms. They can occur both on the inside and on the outside of your body. You can get an ulcer just about anywhere on your body. As you can imagine, having an open wound on your body can be very painful. It also has the potential for becoming infected. 

For the most part, ulcers will generally heal on their own. As with most conditions, there are situations where the ulcers are not able to heal properly or continue to reoccur. The most common condition or situation where you will see an ulcer not healing is in the form of a diabetic foot ulcer. 

Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Diabetic foot ulcers occur in approximately 15% of patients who suffer from diabetes. This is often a result of poor circulation, high blood sugars and nerve damage. These ulcers can be located anywhere on your feet including the bottom, top, or on your toes. They typically look like a red crater in the skin. Because of the open wound on your skin, there is a high rate of developing an infection. In addition to a high risk of infection, diabetic foot ulcers can be severely painful, especially considering the weight you may be putting on your foot. More often than not, individuals suffering from diabetic foot ulcers require some form of assistive device to help them walk such as a walker or scooter. Keeping pressure off of the wound is imperative in the healing process. 

If you are suffering from a diabetic foot ulcer you are likely treating with an endocrinologist to help manage your diabetes, specifically your sugar levels. You are also likely treated with a wound care specialist. This is a medical doctor who would help treat the wound or the ulcer.

There are five stages to a diabetic foot ulcer:

  1. A normal foot.
  2. A high-risk foot.
  3. An ulcerated foot.
  4. An infected foot.
  5. A necrotic foot. 

Diabetic Foot Ulcer Treatment

Depending upon the stage you are in will determine the level of treatment recommended. The typical treatments recommended would be to keep pressure off the area, called “off-loading”, removing dead skin or tissue from the areas, called debridement, and keeping the area clean with medications. In some cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be beneficial to help speed the healing process. This treatment exposes the area of the body to 100% oxygen. In the most extreme cases, if the wound cannot be controlled and infection sets in, amputation of the limb may be considered.

Diabetic Foot Ulcers and Social Security Disability

If you are suffering from a diabetic foot ulcer and you are one of the unfortunate individuals where the ulcer simply will not heal or continues to re-occur, you are likely a candidate for the social security disability program. This program is available for those individuals who have worked hard their whole life with no plans to stop working until retirement age but due to a medical condition, you are forced to stop working before your planned time. This disability program is seen as a safety net put in place by the federal government for unplanned or unexpected long-term illnesses that prevent you from working. The disability program is a mandatory program run by the federal government. As long as you are working and paying taxes, you have no choice but to participate in this federal insurance program. In the event of a medical condition impacting your ability to work, you will be eligible to receive the money you have paid into the disability program but only if you meet social security’s definition of disability. 

The social security administration has defined disability to mean an inability to perform the substantial gainful activity by reason of any physical and/or mental condition which can be expected to result in death or which is expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. It is important to know the social security disability program is not a short-term disability supplement. It requires proof that your conditions are expected to prevent you from working for a minimum of twelve months. 

When proving whether you are disabled or not, social security will first consider whether you suffer from a severe medically determinable impairment. You must suffer from a severe medical condition that poses more than a minimal impact upon your ability to work. In short, simply having a diagnosis will not suffice as proof of a medically determinable impairment. You must show your diagnosed condition poses some type of barrier or impact upon your ability to work. This threshold is quite low with deference given to the individual. 

Once a severe impairment is determined, social security will then determine your residual functional capacity. Your residual functional capacity is the most you are able to do in spite of your exertional and non-exertional limitations. Exertional limitations pertain to your ability sit, stand, walk, pull, push, carry or lift. Anything else is considered a non-exertional limitation such as your ability to handle and finger, or mental clarity. When determining your residual functional capacity, social security will review your medical records to determine the types of symptoms and limitations your conditions impose. It is vitally important to establish a treating relationship with a medical provider. Your doctor’s treatment notes will be reviewed for these limitations and used in determining what you are functionally capable of doing. 

Once your residual functional capacity is determined, social security will then consider how your RFC impacts your ability to work. It will first consider whether you are able to perform any of your past relevant work. If your residual functional capacity precludes an ability to perform your past work, then social security will determine if your limitations allow you to perform any other type of work in the national economy. 

LaBovick Law Group’s Social Security Attorneys Can Help

As you can imagine, suffering from a diabetic foot ulcer will not only significantly impact your ability to stand and walk but may also affect your ability to focus or concentrate due to the pain. If you are suffering from a diabetic foot ulcer that is expected to impact your ability to work for a period of not less than twelve months, you should be applying for these social security disability benefits.

At the LaBovick Law Group, we provide free consultations to see if this program is the right fit for you. We also handle every step of the application process. Call us today at (561) 623-3681 for your free evaluation.

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