Diabetes Disability - who pays?
March 25, 2010 2:48 AM   Subscribe

I have a friend (living in the U.S. Southeast) who is not working due to type 1 diabetes. He was recently working the assembly line for a major Japanese automobile manufacturer before diabetes forced him to stop working and now he's on some kind of disability for the rest of his life. Does his employer write his disability checks or the Social Security system or is this unknowable without asking him probing questions?
posted by loosemouth to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The precise details would require too much probing, but there are probabilities:

1. Many employers offer disability insurance as a voluntary employee benefit, which would mean that a commercial insurance company pays benefits for as long as the disability continues, subject to the terms of the policy.

2. If he established that he cannot perform any sort of gainful work as a result of his disability, he would be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, which are paid by the Federal government.

3. Both could occur but the benefits would be coordinated.

It seems clear that the disability is not work-related and thus not compensable under workers' compensation laws. The employer will not be writing any checks.
posted by yclipse at 3:53 AM on March 25, 2010

Slightly off topic - but I'm trying to figure out how Type I could be disabling. The consequences of not controlling your diabetes long term could lead to complications that are disabling, but the disease itself when managed properly really shouldn't keep anybody from working.

And to answer your actual question - if I remember correctly from when my dad went on disability, there are short term and long term disability benefits. Long term social security disability requires a bit of bureaucracy to convince the government that you are actually incapable of long term employment. Short term (less than 90 days) is a fairly common employer provided benefit. The company may have also provided long term disability insurance, although that is probably uncommon for an assembly line type of job.
posted by COD at 5:44 AM on March 25, 2010

It depends on the nature of the disability. The tests (or qualifications) for SSDI disability for adults are pulished on the ssa.gov Web site. Type 1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes) that leads to repeat hospitalizations due to acidosis or hypoglycemia, as well as kidney problems, can qualify an adult for SSDI. Normal, run of the mill, controlled diabetes won't qualify someone for SSDI nor will it qualify someone for benefits under a long term disability plan (almost exclusively obtained as part of an employment benefits plan). So whether the problem is caused by poor management or out of control disease, the point is you can't work if you are continually in the hospital because of hypoglycemia, DKA or kidney problems (including end stage renal disease, which is fatal).

If he does have both SSDI and LTD benefits, the LTD benefit will most likely be reduced or offset by the amount he is receiving from SSDI. And the amount of SSDI he receives will depend on the nature of the disability as well as how long he worked and contributed into the Social Security system.
posted by FergieBelle at 5:54 AM on March 25, 2010

trying to figure out how Type I could be disabling

type 1 is almost nothing like type 2 - that they're both called diabetes is pretty much archaic, medically speaking.

type 1 is considered in some ways an autoimmune disease, in which the pancreas produces no insulin at all. type 1 diabetics have much greater control problems than type 2s just by definition, depending on their particular metabolism. I know a woman with type 1 who is very conscientious, runs a pump, eats perfectly, but if she gets a cold, she's practically guaranteed a blackout. every blood sugar control failure causes cellular damage and/or nerve damage, some of which are permanent and cumulative.

so, if the person has had a significant number of blood sugar control failures, they're probably going to experience pain/numbness/diminished use of their extremities, as well as changes/damage to their vision. If he can't feel his hands and feet well, or can't see well, he can't work on a line.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:58 AM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oops! Just realized I was looking at the wrong qualifications for adults. So here's what can get you SSDI with diabetes if you're an adult:

Neuropathy (nerve damage)--two extremeties--affecting movement, gait or station
Acidosis--at least once every 2 months
Vision problems--impairment

This is strictly diabetes... Most people with diabetes have other conditions as well. The most common are probably cardiovascular disease and depression. Those could also weigh in on obtaining SSDI.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:04 AM on March 25, 2010

Does his employer write his disability checks or the Social Security system or is this unknowable without asking him probing questions?

His employer may have provided him with the option of paying for disability insurance and complications from his disability may have led him to be eligible to take it at some point.
posted by anniecat at 6:31 AM on March 25, 2010

I work in the field of both trying to get people with disabilities back to work and fighting for their rights when they can't. If he has been determined to be incapable of going back to work, he is probably getting SSI and or SSDI, or potentitally some medicaid package from the state.

In almost every case, you get out what you've paid into the system. Ergo, if you work under the table, you're screwed.

SSI generally is what you get if you've paid in.
SSDI is what you generally get if you have not, and/or in addition to SSI to get you to a "livable standard", which rarely exceeds $1000 a month total.

If he has something like Aflac or disability insurance that he elected to pay into while he was working, he will probably receive that instead of SSI/SSDI.

Realistically, he is probably capable of some kind of employment. Employers are legally obligated to make reasonable accomodations (reasonable is subjective based on the size of the company), and even if he's not capable of doing what he did forever, he's probably capable of something. The challenge for a lot of people is that disability benefits have a tendency to turn off if you start to work....so you can be a 10 hour a week greeter at walmart and get the same $ you get for doing nothing, when realistically 10 hours a week might be all you can do.

In any case, if this isn't a close enough friend that you can ask these questions to, then it's NOYFB and you should leave it alone unless you believe he could use advocacy or additional services.

Regardless of the state, the federal government mandates that certain agencies exist to provide assistance in these kinds of matters. If you feel he needs assistance, feel free to MeMail me and I'll try to point you in the right direction.
posted by TomMelee at 7:43 AM on March 25, 2010

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