Winning TIP #1

500px-International_Symbol_of_Access.svgSocial Security disability benefits (SSDI) can be difficult to obtain. Often, an individual who uses a cane, walker or wheelchair may assume that SSDI will pay benefits automatically. However, SSDI will require proper documentation of any ambulatory limitations. This includes a prescription from a medical doctor for equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs. When an individual has a disabling medical condition that is severe enough to restrict their movement, Social Security will classify the condition under their impairment listings. Each listing has criteria that an applicant must meet in order to receive benefits. Social Security looks for an “inability to ambulate effectively” in order to qualify for disability assistance. This phrase describes a severe limitation in the ability to walk without assistance from another person or devices such as canes, walkers or wheelchairs. Examples of conditions that satisfy the SSDI definition of the inability to ambulate effectively include:

• Major joint problems. • Rheumatoid arthritis. • Spinal stenosis. • Amputation. • Scleroderma. • Fractures. • Dermatomyositis or polymyositis.

Another condition that may qualify for SSDI benefits includes a “disturbance of gait and station.” This neurological disorder disrupts the ability to walk, stand or balance. Most often, a patient with this type of disorder will need a wheelchair. Examples of conditions that satisfy the SSDI definition of “disturbance of gait and station” include:

• Huntington’s disease. • Cerebral palsy. • Post-polio syndrome. • Muscular dystrophy. • Diabetic or peripheral neuropathies. • Multiple sclerosis. • Stroke. • Traumatic brain injury. • Paralysis or spinal cord injuries.

While the need for a wheelchair may establish a patient’s “inability to ambulate effectively” or a “disturbance of gait and station” according to Social Security, the agency may require the individual to meet additional criteria to receive automatic approval for benefits. To assist with the application process, providing documentation from a physician, such as the prescription for a cane, walker or wheelchair, will facilitate a quicker response from SSDI. To be eligible for SSDI payments without meeting the listing criteria, an individual must show that he or she cannot perform any job including sedentary work. If SSDI determines that the applicant can perform sedentary work, even while needing a wheelchair, the agency will deny the claim. In making the decision, Social Security will use a residual functional capacity assessment (RFC) from the medical documentation available. Therefore, the prescriptions for walking devices provide concrete evidence of the severity of the disability.

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