Amputation is the removal or loss of the limb or a part of the limb.
This can often mean the removal or loss of a hand, fingers, leg, or toes.
Amputation can occur due to several reasons. But the most common reasons for severed limbs are diseases, trauma, surgery, and congenital.
Diseases like bone infection, deep vein thrombosis, or peripheral vascular diseases can often lead to the loss of one’s limb.
Sometimes, even complications in diabetes can necessitate the sawing off of a limb.
Trauma is also one of the leading causes of amputation. This occurs due to accidents or surgeries that necessitate the removal of a limb to save the victim’s life or prevent continual loss of blood.
Congenital amputation usually occurs in babies when a portion of the limb is missing from birth.
Whatever the reason for an amputation doesn’t matter. The fact remains that amputation often results in pain whether physical, emotional, or psychological.
Table of Contents
- Limitations of Amputees
- When is Amputation a Disability?
- Amputations That Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits
- Amputations That Don’t Qualify for Automatic Social Security Disability Benefits
- Getting Social Security Benefits as an Amputee
Limitations of Amputees
Aside from the traumatic pains of amputation, amputees tend to develop one form of limitation or another as a result of the condition.
These limitations can be described as disabling for amputees.
The loss of both arms can easily limit one’s ability to reach for, lift, or pull things. Without the forelimbs, amputees may not be able to write.
But not all amputations are described as limiting or disabling.
Some can be augmented or compensated for. In this case, the amputee will not be eligible for any benefits as the condition is not disabling.
Related: 5 Stages of Adjustment to Disability
When is Amputation a Disability?
Simply having an amputated limb doesn’t automatically qualify you for a social security disability check.
This is because merely having a condition does not automatically mean that you are disabled. The real question is, how does the condition prevent you from doing the kind of work that you do?
A disabling condition limits your functionality.
Fortunately, there have been amazing improvements in the prosthetic technology industry.
Today, amputees can make up for their lost limb with a prosthetic limb to help them function like every other person.
And even at that, an amputee with a prosthetic can be described and even accepted as having a disability by the social security disability office while another amputee with the same prosthetic may have their application rejected.
The social security administration has put in place certain criteria to help in deciding if your amputation is disabling or not.
If your condition meets any of the criteria, then you will be able to get social security benefits from the administration.
Amputations That Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits
To qualify for social security benefits, your amputation must fall under one of the types of amputations required by the agency.
4 types of amputations qualify you for disability benefits. These include amputation of
- both hands at or above the wrist
- both legs at or above the ankle
- One leg up to the hip
- Pelvic amputation
These amputation types laid out by social security automatically qualify you for a disability if you have any of them.
If you have any of the above conditions, the social security agency assumes that your amputation will qualify for disability benefits and start making payments right away.
The SSA will continue to make payment until your disability claim is approved or denied by the agency.
If, however, you have other types of amputations, you might still be eligible for social security benefits. But not automatically.
To qualify for the benefits, you must be able to prove that the amputation has severely limited your ability to function.
Amputations That Don’t Qualify for Automatic Social Security Disability Benefits
While these amputations might qualify you for some benefits under the Social Security Disability Act, you’re not automatically entitled to the benefits.
Rather, it is the impairment caused by the post-amputation that qualifies you for the benefits.
As such, if you have any of these types of amputation and your way of generating income has been significantly affected, then you might want to consider applying for social security benefits.
Loss of non-dominant hand
If you have suffered an amputation that resulted in the loss of the dominant hand (although, this is not the loss of both hands), social security might consider this as a disability. This means that you will be awarded some benefits.
But if it is the other hand, then you may not qualify for the social security benefits. The same applies to loss of the lower limbs.
Loss of leg
If you lost a leg but can still use a prosthetic and function properly, then you may not be awarded any benefits.
This is because your amputated limb may have changed your life and impacted you in some other ways but it cannot be proven that it can prevent you from working at a job and earning an income.
If you are amputated above the knee and can use a prosthetic with little to no discomfort, then you should be able to get a sedentary residual functional capacity type of work.
The sedentary RFC are types of work that require that you don’t carry or lift weights that are above 10 pounds.
Getting Social Security Benefits as an Amputee
Social security does not take into account the condition that led to the loss of the limb. Rather, the agency focuses on the ability of the amputee after the incident to determine if you qualify for a benefit or not.
The basis for determining if your condition is disabling or not is the limitation imposed by the condition on your ability to work at a job and earn an income comfortably.
Amputees who don’t meet the first criteria for disability can still apply to the social security agency to be awarded benefits.
To do this, you must be able to prove that despite your prosthetic limb, you are still
- Severely limited in the amount of time you can spend standing or walking
- You need some sort of assistance devices like a chair, cane, or walker
- You cannot walk without some form of assistance
- You cannot drive or use public transport on your own
- You cannot use the stairs without the rails
- You cannot bank, shop, or run errands without assistance
- You cannot carry or lift heavy objects
This shows that the prosthetic you have may have helped improve your condition but doesn’t make it any less hard to work at a job.
This is the same even for amputations that may be described as minor amputations such as the loss of one’s finger or toes.
If you lost your fingers or toes and that has significantly limited your functionality, then you may be qualified for disability benefits.
Amputees are not disabled because of the sawed-off limbs. Rather, they’re disabled in the way the sawed-off limbs affect their functionality.