Man holding wrist due to painYes. Most jobs – even those that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers unskilled and sedentary – require the use of the hands and fingers. If you’re unable to work or engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a loss of hand function, such as reduced muscle strength or limited gripping or pinching capability, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Here’s what you should know about how the SSA evaluates claims involving manipulative limitations of the hands and how Keefe Disability Law’s accomplished attorneys can help you apply and fight for the benefits you deserve.

Conditions That Can Affect Hand and Finger Function 

Loss of hand function can be caused by a wide range of injuries and disorders, including:

  • Arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis can affect the hands, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformities that make completing everyday activities difficult.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition occurs when the median nerve is pinched or compressed at the wrist, causing numbness, pain, and tingling in the hand and forearm and, in some cases, permanent hand dysfunction that includes weakness and loss of sensation in the fingers.
  • Neuropathy. Whether caused by a traumatic injury, infection, or complication of a disease like diabetes, peripheral neuropathy in the hands can result in debilitating weakness, numbness, and pain.
  • Cervical disc disease with radiculopathy. This condition happens when a cushioning disc in the cervical spine begins breaking down, compressing or irritating a nerve in the neck and causing burning pain, muscle weakness, and numbness in the arms and hands.

Qualifying for SSDI for Loss of Hand Function

In addition to meeting the SSA’s substantial gainful activity requirements, meaning that you aren’t currently working or earning more than the SGA cap ($1,350 monthly for most applicants or $2,260 per month for blind claimants in 2022), you must have a medically determinable impairment (MDI) that’s severe enough to prevent employment for at least 12 months or result in death. Disability Determination Services (DDS) considers the nature of your injury or illness and the extent of the limitations it causes to decide if you qualify for benefits. When evaluating an SSDI application that includes loss of hand function, the disability examiner needs to know if your condition prevents fine and gross motor movements, such as pinching, picking, fingering, manipulating, handling, grasping, gripping, holding, writing, typing, and reaching. Good use of the hands and fingers isn’t just essential in the workplace; it can also affect your ability to maintain personal hygiene, cook or feed yourself, or perform other vital daily tasks.

Proving Your Disability 

Regardless of whether your SSDI application is based on loss of hand function or it’s simply one of the multiple impairments included in your claim, providing evidence from acceptable medical sources (AMS) is crucial. X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, electromyography (EMGs), nerve conduction studies, and tests that measure the range of motion and grip and pinch strength can serve as strong supporting evidence. Additionally, because DDS reviews your past relevant work and assesses your ability to adapt to a new job, the opinion or testimony of a vocational expert can help convey the severity and extent of your limitations. Our Boston disability lawyers can connect you with qualified physicians and vocational experts.

Let Our Exceptional Attorneys Assist You With Your SSDI Application 

Losing hand functioning can greatly narrow your options for substantial gainful employment. After all, even if you can sit at a desk for a full eight hours, most sedentary jobs involve repetitive hand movements and good use of the hands and fingers. Having trouble using your hands? Let Keefe Disability Law assist with your application. 

Talk to Us About Your Claim

Complete our online contact form or call us at 508-283-5500 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our Boston legal team. For more information, request a complimentary download of our report, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Process.


Patrick Hartwig
Connect with me
Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law