Amputations are more common in the United States than ever before. According to data from the Amputee Coalition, around 2 million Americans currently live with limb loss.
Of those Americans, at least 50% lost one or more limbs to a vascular disease like diabetes or arterial disease, and 45% experienced trauma in the affected area.
Thanks to modern technology, a variety of prosthetics and medicines make limb loss a far less dire condition than it’s ever been. However, there are many amputees who cannot use prosthetics, or who still experience great difficulty living their daily lives in a world that is often insensitive to their needs.
If your amputation continues to prevent you from working or living independently, then you may qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration’s program.
How the Social Security Blue Book Can Help Your Case
Social Security disability benefits are provided to Americans who are considered “totally and permanently disabled.” This refers to any applicant who:
- has a severe medical disorder that prevents them from completing normal daily tasks like working, bathing, dressing, cooking, or cleaning
- is expected to last more than 12 months or result in death.
Since amputations are permanent, the length of a disability is usually not an issue for applicants. However, the severity of the disorder is what typically determines whether or not an amputee qualifies for benefits.
The best way to measure your qualifications is to compare your condition with the Social Security Blue Book, which lists all qualifying disorders. Amputations are listed under Section 1.05 of this book, which states that amputees can qualify if they have either:
- Both hands amputated,
- One or both lower extremities amputated at or above the ankle, with stump complications that prevent the use of prosthetics (which are not expected to heal in less than 12 months),
- One hand and one lower extremity at or above the ankle, with an inability to walk or move effectively,
- A hemipelvectomy or hip disarticulation.
In entries 1 and 4, it is rather simple to determine whether or not you will qualify. However, for entries 2 and 3, it may be difficult to determine whether or not your walking ability or stump will help you qualify for benefits.
Regardless of your situation, it is best to speak with your physician to determine whether or not you qualify. They can also help you get further testing to nail down your diagnosis.
Necessary Paperwork for the Application
As a general rule of thumb, the more information you provide on your application, the more likely you are to receive benefits. This means providing an in-depth look into your medical history, your test results, and even your therapy history. Be sure to prepare copies of the following:
- X-rays: This is the most common evidence provided to show the location and severity of the amputation.
- Blood tests and tissue samples: For those with complications resulting from their amputation, this is the easiest way to diagnose further issues.
- CT & MRI scans: These can also help to determine what complications may prevent a person from walking efficiently or using a prosthetic.
- General medical history: Include notes from your physician that describe your condition since the beginning of your medical issues, as well as other tests that may demonstrate other disorders that led to your amputation.
- Physical therapy notes: Notes from your therapist regarding your progress after an amputation can be valuable when helping Social Security determine your capacity for work and self-care.
If you are unsure whether or not your complications will help you qualify for benefits, you should also ask your doctor to complete an RFC test.
These tests measure a person’s ability to complete necessary daily actions like walking, sitting, standing up, pushing, pulling, lifting, or bending.
If you are unable to effectively complete these tasks, you may be deemed unable to work by the Social Security Administration and still be eligible for benefits through an exception called a Medical Vocational Allowance.
Consult with a Social Security Attorney
Applying for disability benefits is notoriously tricky and time-consuming. If you are confused by the process or worried about your ability to qualify, then it may be best to hire a Social Security disability attorney.
An attorney’s expertise in disability claims can help strengthen your case, reduce the risk of mistakes, and statistically increase your chances of winning.
Plus, if your initial claim is denied, disability attorneys can represent you in court and fight for your right to financial support. Better yet, disability attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t have to pay them unless they win your case.