Are You Considered "Disabled" If You Need an Assistive Device?

Social Security and assistive devices.Needing an assistive device does not automatically mean that you will be approved for Social Security benefits. If you have a condition that makes it necessary for you to use an assistive device for dexterity, stability, or mobility, the Social Security Administration will consider that in making its determination of whether you meet their definition of “disabled.”

The Social Security Administration will require that you have a “documented medical need,” meaning that there must be evidence from a medical source that supports your medical need for an assistive for a continuous period of at least 12 months. This does not mean that you must have a specific prescription for the device, but this is frequently helpful in establishing your medical need. This medical evidence must describe any limitation(s) in your upper or lower extremity functioning and the circumstances for which you need to use the assistive device. The Administration will consider both the type of assistive device that you use and the reason you need it in evaluating your claim for disability benefits.

Braces/Orthosis

Orthopedic braces are medical devices that help to align, support, stabilize and protect joints. While providing many benefits, these can restrict your range of motion and make it more difficult for you to perform certain physical movements that are required in some workplaces. The Social Security Administration will need evidence from a medical source documenting your ability to walk, or perform fine and gross movements (see 1.00E4), with the orthosis(es) in place. If you cannot use your orthosis(es), the Administration needs evidence from a medical source documenting the medical basis for your inability to use the device(s).

Crutches

Whether standard or forearm, crutches can be used for both short- and long-term impairments including sprains, fractures, impaired balance, impaired strength or amputation. While improving mobility, these devices can make it difficult for you to use your hands and arms while standing or getting around.

Canes

A single-prong cane or a quad cane can be used to help gait disturbances due to balance issues, impaired strength, or other joint or skeletal problems. Single-prong canes increase the base of support to improve balance. Quad canes assist in both balance and stability, as well as being used to assist in weightbearing. Both types of canes can also be used to assist in a person’s transition from sitting to standing and from standing to sitting. The Administration requires medical evidence in support of your need for a cane, and evidence explaining why you need to use a cane can help support your claim. Using a cane can restrict your ability to use at least one hand and arm while standing or walking, so it is helpful to have medical evidence discussing whether you can still use the other arm or hand when you use one arm for the cane. Finally, the Administration needs evidence from a medical source describing how you walk with the device.

Walker

Walkers are used to provide a wider base of support for patients who have poor balance and mobility. Some types of rollators and walkers can slow gait speed, but they all require the use of both hands. As with other mobility aids, the Administration will need medical evidence supporting your need for the device and describing your ability to walk with the device.

Rollator

While a rollator can be used similarly to a walker, it can also be used similarly to a wheelchair and the Social Security Administration includes it in its description of wheeled and seated mobility devices (1.00(c)(6)(e).) The Administration will need medical evidence supporting your need for the device, identifying any customizations or modifications to the device. The Administration will also need medical evidence to help it determine whether the use of this device restricts your ability to use one or both hands.

Prosthesis/Artificial Limb

If you are missing part (or all) of a limb, you may be fitted for a prosthesis or prostheses to take the place of the absent body part. Some injuries or conditions will prevent you from being able to use a prosthetic. If that is your case, the Administration will need medical evidence documenting the medical basis for your inability to use a prosthetic. Otherwise, the medical evidence should document your need for the device and your ability to perform fine and gross movements with the prosthesis(es) in place. The Administration needs an evaluation of your ability to walk with the prosthetic in place, but when amputation(s) involve one or both lower extremities (legs), the medical source does not have to evaluate your ability to walk without the prosthetic in place.

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