Many of us in Boston first became familiar with amputations after the Boston Marathon bombings almost three months ago. We have watched 15 brave survivors learn to walk on prosthetic legs and use prosthetic hands. As we learned about the options available to the Marathon survivors, we also learned that amputations are far more common than we thought.
More than two million Americans are living with limb loss. Each year, approximately 185,000 Americans undergo an amputation. Just over half of these amputations are due to vascular disease, including diabetes and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). About 45 percent are due to trauma. Leading causes of traumatic amputation include workplace injuries, motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters, war, and of course, terrorist attacks.
Perhaps you have also made a donation to help with the expenses facing the Boston Marathon survivors. Prosthetic arms and legs are not cheap, and they need to be replaced every few years. A lifetime average cost of $500,000 means that many people cannot afford prosthetics or training to use them. This can make it difficult to work and participate in the activities of daily life.
Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) are available for amputees that meet certain criteria. You will automatically be found disabled if your amputation meets the criteria of the Social Security Administrations disability listing 1.05, Amputations. To qualify under listing 1.05, one of the following must be true:
- Both hands have been amputated.
- One or both legs are amputated at or above the ankle and you are not able to walk effectively. This means that you are unable to use prosthetic device because of stump complications and/or that you require both your hands to handle two canes, crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair when walking a significant distance.
- You have an amputation of one hand and of one leg at or above the ankle. You are unable to walk effectively due to the amputation.
- One leg has been amputated at the hip (hip disarticulation) or at the pelvis (hemipelvectomy).
You don’t have to meet Disability Listing 1.05 to qualify for SSDI
Many amputations will not fit the criteria of disability listing 1.05. This does not mean that you shouldn’t apply for SSDI. If your amputation prevents you from working, you may still be eligible for disability benefits.
When you apply for SSDI for amputation, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will assess your “residual functional capacity,” or “RFC,” based on your age, work experience, education, health, and disability. If you have a lower-limb amputation, the SSA will assess your ability to stand, bend, balance, and walk on various surfaces. If you have an arm or hand amputation, the SSA will consider whether that is your dominant hand and your ability to grasp, carry, push, pull, lift, type, and write. The SSA will use your RFC to determine if there is any type of work you can do. If the SSA believes that your amputation prevents you from performing any type of work, you will be awarded SSDI under a “medical-vocational allowance.”
It is important that you list all your health conditions when applying for SSDI. If you have lost a foot due to diabetes, an application based on the amputation alone may not qualify you for SSDI. However, you may qualify when the amputation is combined with your diabetic symptoms.
For more tips on applying for SSDI in Massachusetts, request a free copy of Boston disability attorney John Keefe’s book, 7 Costly Mistakes that can Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim. To schedule a free case evaluation with a Massachusetts SSDI lawyer, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.