Should diabetes be included in the Social Security Administration’s list of “disabling” impairments? Many people say no — often because they personally know a diabetic who works and has no need for Social Security Disability benefits, or because they know that there have been many famous and highly functional diabetics, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court.
We mention Justice Sotomayor specifically because of the recent White House claim that President Obama was the first American leader to successfully appoint a justice with a disability to our nation’s highest court — and because of the eyebrows that statement raised here in Oregon and elsewhere.
The White House is able to make that claim because the Americans With Disabilities Act provides a different definition for “disability” than the SSA. Under the ADA, diabetes is a disability if it “it substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life activities.” The ADA then defines those activities to include major bodily functions such as endocrine function, which happens to be substantially limited by diabetes.
Although Justice Sotomayor may be considered to have a disability as far as the ADA is concerned, the SSA would not consider her to be disabled at all. Under its definition, simply having diabetes would not qualify a person for Social Security Disability benefits unless it was “severe enough to significantly limit (that person’s) ability to perform basic work activities needed to do most jobs.”
Since Justice Sotomayor is clearly able to work and certainly earns more income than the SSA allows a person to earn while remaining eligible for disability benefits, the SSA (hypothetically) would not award her benefits.
What about you? Is your diabetes severe enough to qualify you for disability benefits? If you have enough work credits, and you have type-1 or type-2 diabetes that by itself or in combination with other impairments will prevent you from working for at least one year … then the most likely answer is yes.
Source: New York Magazine, “Is Sonia Sotomayor Disabled?,” Dan Amira, April 9, 2012