Club foot is a birth defect with a relatively high incidence rate. In those affected by the condition, one or both feet are malformed at birth, turning inward and down, affecting their ability to stand, walk, balance and perform other essential functions. Though treatments are available, including exercise, physical therapy, use of braces or casts, and even surgery in some cases, there is no cure for the condition.
Some who suffer from club foot deformity may experience limitations on range of motion and pronounced pain for years following even the most successful treatments. In cases where the condition is left untreated, it can worsen over time, resulting in significant disability. Club foot is a condition that can potentially be disabling, whether treated or left untreated. As such, it is a condition that the Social Security Administration (SSA) does consider for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Applying for SSD with a Club Foot
If your club foot deformity and associated symptoms are severe, you may be qualified to receive disability benefits, provided you meet the requirements as listed in the SSA’s Blue Book under major dysfunction of a joint, which appears in section 1.02. In order to meet the listing criteria, you must experience:
- Chronic pain and stiffness in the ankle joint(s)
- Limited range of motion or abnormal motion range in the ankle joint(s)
- Difficulty walking
Medical documentation is a crucial component of any SSD application, and the records which must be present in your club foot claim should include:
- Imaging results showing joint deformities, bone loss or damage, or ankylosis in the ankle joint(s)
- Detailed notes from your physician’s physical examinations and functional assessments of your ability to balance, stand, walk, climb stairs, etc.
- Records of your treatments and their effect on your condition
- A detailed statement from your physician about the ongoing affects of your condition and the prognosis for your club foot
When evaluating your application, the SSA will pay special attention to your ability to walk. They wish to determine if your impairment is significant enough to prevent you from performing normal job duties and other everyday activities. Among the details that can support your claim for disability are physician statements and details of your “functional capacity report” which indicate:
- You’re required to use two crutches or canes, or a walker in order to move about
- You’re unable to walk or balance on uneven or rough surfaces, at least at a “reasonable” pace or speed
- You’re unable to utilize public transportation or can’t drive yourself or grocery shop and do other errands without assistance from another individual
- You can’t climb stairs, even a few, at a “reasonable” pace, without using at least one handrail for support
Club Foot and Qualifying due to a Medical Vocational Allowance
If your application and supporting medical documentation doesn’t meet the criteria for the joint dysfunction listing in the Blue Book, then you may still qualify for SSD benefits, though you’ll need to do so under a “medical vocational allowance”. This essentially means that although your condition doesn’t satisfy the requirements of a listed condition with the SSA, your application and medical records still prove you’re unable to get and keep a job because of your physical and/or mental limitations.
To find an applicant eligible for benefits under a medical vocational allowance, the SSA must be able to determine that you:
- Have severe enough limitations to prevent you from working in your previous field of employment
- Don’t have the education, job skills and other qualifications to find employment in another field in which your limitations would not prevent you from performing essential job functions
- Are unable to find and maintain a job that provides you sufficient income to be considered “gainful activity” on a monthly basis, given your limitations
Regardless of which manner your club foot application for SSD might qualify for benefits, medical records are a crucial component of a successful claim. It’s important to note that your medical records, statements from your treating physician, and other documentation of your disability must show your condition has not improved even when you’ve followed prescribed treatments and undergone appropriate therapies. In other words, your application and supporting documentation must show that you continue to be severely limited by your club foot even after taking steps to address your limitations.
Getting Help with Your Club Foot SSD Application
Because many patients with club foot see success with treatments, proving a disability claim based on a club foot impairment can be challenging. Your doctor must be a partner in substantiating your disability, as he or she can help you collect the right medical documentation and meet the criteria for eligibility.
You may also want to consider seeking assistance from a Social Security advocate or disability attorney when filing your claim, or when proceeding through secondary reviews or appeal hearings during your pursuit of disability benefits. An attorney can help ensure your application and substantiating documentation meets the eligibility criteria for SSD benefits.