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Amputation and Social Security Disability

Amputation – Condition and Symptoms

Amputation is defined as the complete severance of one of the body’s extremities. This may be due to a medical operation, an injury, or some other form of trauma. In any case, amputation by definition involves the loss of a body part such as a hand, foot, arm or leg.

The symptoms associated with having an amputated limb vary depending on which body part(s) has been amputated. Amputations involving feet or legs typically affect a person’s ability to walk, bend, climb stairs, and otherwise ambulate (move around). Amputations involving hands and arms typically affect a person’s ability to push, pull, or perform fine motor functions.

In addition to the activities that amputation makes impossible or very difficult, many amputees experience pain in the area of the amputated limb.

Amputations are often performed for medical purposes. In some cases, the limb had become useless due to a medical condition and an amputation is performed to prevent further medical complications or spreading of the condition to other body parts. There are a number of conditions for which doctors will perform amputations. Some of the more common include:

  • Gangrene
  • Diabetes (though most diabetics do not require an amputation)
  • Frostbite (severe)
  • Hardened arteries
  • Embolism of the arteries
  • Buerger’s disease
  • Raynaud’s disease

Additionally, amputation can occur as the result of a previous amputation. For disability purposes, anything that causes the complete severance of a hand, foot, arm or leg is considered an amputation.

Filing For Social Security Disability Benefits with an Amputation Diagnosis

Determining whether or not you have an amputation is pretty straightforward. If you are missing a limb or extremity, you have an amputation (for disability purposes). However, filing for Social Security Disability benefits with an amputation diagnosis is not always as simple as it seems like it should be.

As with other conditions, to qualify for disability benefits with an amputated limb or extremity, you must show that your condition causes you to be unable to perform functions that are important in the work place such as lifting, bending, walking, grasping, pushing, and pulling. The difficulty in showing this varies depending on which limbs have been amputated and the type of work (heavy, moderate, light, sedentary) that you have done before or could be expected to perform based on your age, education level and experience.

The specifications for qualifying for disability benefits because of an amputation are found in Section 1.05 of the SSA’s Blue Book. The listing makes clear that it includes amputations due to any cause.

You meet the listing outright (and will generally qualify for Social Security Disability benefits) if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • Loss of both hands
  • Have lost either lower limb above the ankle (tarsal region) AND have complications that medically prevent you from using a prosthetic device to help you walk and effectively ambulate.
  • Loss of one hand and one lower limb above the ankle with inability to use a prosthetic device.
  • Loss of an entire leg at the hip or pelvic region.

If you do not meet the above criteria, it does not automatically mean that you can’t qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, though you will likely need to work your way through the appeals process until you can make your case before an administrative law judge.

The SSA will take into account how your amputation affects your ability to perform daily tasks. It is important that your medical documentation demonstrates that you can’t effectively use a prosthetic device and why. Your doctor’s report should also include any and all restrictions on daily activities that are a result of your amputation or any other medically verifiable conditions that you have.

As with other disabling conditions, the effects of your amputation must be expected to last at least one year in order for you to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. In most cases with amputations, this does not present a problem. The exception to this is cases where you may be expected to be able to effectively use a prosthetic device within a year.

Your Amputation Disability Case

Even if you meet the listing conditions for Social Security Disability benefits for amputees, it’s a good idea to have a Social Security Disability lawyer review your claim. Some claims are fairly open and shut cases, some are more complicated. Either way, though, claims can be denied for simple and preventable mistakes such as not including all of the necessary medical documentation or not filling out forms completely and correctly.

Of course, you do have access to an appeals process if your claim is denied, but this adds time onto an already drawn out process. Having a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate ensure that everything is as it should be in your disability claim can save you several months and lots of hassle.