Friday, October 21, 2011

Disability and Diabetes

Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin. According to the American Diabetes Association, 8.3% of the population has diabetes, which contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths a year, and causes: frequent urination, thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue and irritability, frequent infections, blurred vision, slow healing cuts and bruises, and tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.

Millions of people in the United States have diabetes. A person can readily establish a diagnosis of diabetes through routine laboratory blood tests. The question for disability adjudicators is when is diabetes severe enough to warrant being found disabled. Stated from the claimant’s perspective, how does one show that his or her diabetes precludes working on a sustained basis?

As noted above, diabetes can cause many different types of symptoms of varying intensity. While all symptoms should be pointed out, I find that tying the most serious ones to a specific work function is the best approach. I represent a former electrician whose disability application was approved today because of the effect that diabetes had on his ability to work.

I secured reports from the claimant’s endocrinologist. He confirmed that the claimant had many of the typical diabetes symptoms: lower extremity pain and weakness, hand weakness, vascular disease, loss of manual dexterity, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, difficulty walking, nausea, kidney problems and frequent urination, excessive thirst, depression, and fatigue. The most problematical symptoms were the pain, numbness, and tingling in the feet, which made walking and standing very difficult.

The endocrinologist concluded that the claimant was unable to stand or walk for even one hour a day because of the diabetes. To support his conclusion, the doctor cited Nerve Conduction Studies that revealed sensorimotor polyneuropathy in the lower extremities. The diabetic peripheral neuropathy objectively established the nerve damage that credibly explained the claimant’s inability to be on his feet, which is required for any full time occupation.

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