Disability Benefits for Amputations: How Amputees Can Qualify
February 9, 2024 · 3 min read
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An estimated 2.7 million people in the U.S. have lost a limb or live with limb difference, and the advocacy group Amputee Coalition projects that number will nearly double by 2050. If you're among this group, you may qualify for disability benefits.
To qualify for amputee disability benefits, you must meet the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s eligibility requirements, which are for specific types of amputations. We'll walk you through the specifications to understand how your amputation might qualify for disability and what next steps you should take.
What is amputation?
Amputation is the surgical removal of the entirety or a portion of a limb or extremity, such as an arm, leg, hand, or finger. Removal may be necessary because of a traumatic injury, infection, or complications of a medical condition, like peripheral vascular disease.
Common types of amputation
The different types of amputation refer to the body part that is surgically removed. Some common types of amputation include:
Is amputation a disability?
Yes, the SSA considers certain types of amputation a disability. To receive disability benefits due to amputation, however, you will need to meet certain conditions and demonstrate you are unable to work because of your amputation.
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) also considers amputation a disability so long as it is substantially limiting. Enacted in 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals living with disabilities.
How the SSA defines amputation
An amputation, either from trauma or as a result of a condition, is listed in the SSA Blue Book in Section 1.20 under the category of musculoskeletal disorders. Amputation is the total or partial loss of a limb or extremity.
Not only does this require adjusting to living without this body part, but the surgery can lead to complications, such as:
Deep vein thrombosis
Phantom limb pain
Stump and phantom limb pain
Beyond these potential risks and effects, individuals who have lost a limb or extremity can also face psychological impacts, dealing with depression, anxiety, denial, or grief.
Can you get disability for amputation?
Yes, you can get disability benefits for amputation if you are unable to work because of your condition. It can be easier to secure Social Security disability if you apply with more than one qualifying condition. There are certain conditions commonly coincide with amputation, such as:
For more information on these and other qualifying conditions, review our main guide on conditions that qualify for disability.
Criteria for getting disability with amputation
To receive amputee disability benefits, you must demonstrate you meet SSA eligibility requirements and that you are unable to work because of your amputation.
The SSA will consider an amputation that involves either full or partial loss of a limb or extremity or a total absence. Further, an eligible amputation can be due to any cause, like trauma, congenital abnormality, surgery, or complications from disease.
However, only the following types of amputations are considered eligible under SSA criteria:
Amputation of both upper extremities that occurs at or above the wrists and up to and including the shoulder joint
Amputation that involves a hemipelvectomy or hip disarticulation
Amputation of one upper extremity that occurs at or above the wrists, as well as amputation of one lower extremity that occurs at or above the ankle. Additionally, it's necessary to have medical documentation showing that one of the following applies:You have a documented medical need for a walker, bilateral canes, or a wheeled or seated mobility device that involves using both handsYou have a documented medical need for a one-handed, hand-held assistive device that requires the use of the other upper extremity, or you need a wheeled or seated mobility device that calls for using one of your handsYou can't use your remaining upper extremity to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities that involve fine and gross movements
Amputation of one or both lower extremities that occurs at or above the ankle, as well as complications with the residual limb(s) that have lasted or are expected to last for at least 12 continuous months. Additionally, you must have medical documentation proving both of the following:You are unable to use a prosthesis(es)You have a documented medical need for a walker, bilateral canes, or bilateral crutches, or a wheeled and seated mobility device that involves the use of both hands
Ready to get benefits today?
5 questions to ask yourself before applying
The disability application process can be challenging and lengthy, so gauging your likelihood of success before applying is helpful. If you're able to answer “yes” to most of the following questions, then there is a good chance your amputation will qualify for disability benefits:
Is your type of amputation among those considered eligible by the SSA?
Do you have a documented medical need for a mobility device due to your amputation?
Does your amputation impact your fine and gross motor skills?
Are you unable to use a prosthesis(es)?
Does your amputation satisfy the duration requirement of lasting or being expected to last for at least 12 months?
My amputation meets the criteria. Now what?
If your amputation meets SSA criteria to qualify for disability, your next step is to apply for disability benefits. The application process is lengthy, so starting as soon as possible is best.
Still on the fence as to whether or not your amputation meets the criteria? Reviewing the following scenarios can help you determine if applying right now makes sense:
Apply now if:
Your amputation is among the types the SSA considers eligible for disability.
The limitations and complications you experience from your amputation have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
Consider waiting and applying later if:
The impact of your amputation is limited.
You're still able to work in some capacity, even if you think your amputation may eventually prevent you from doing so.
Probably don’t apply if:
Your amputation doesn't prevent you from working.
You earn more than $1,550 per month.
Get help with your application
For additional guidance, take our free 2-minute disability quiz to assess whether or not you're likely to qualify for disability benefits. A member of our team will follow up to learn more, and you can choose to work with a qualified disability lawyer. There are no upfront costs — you only pay a fee when you win your benefits.
How much is a disability check for amputation?
The average disability check for amputation is $1,557.95. You might receive more or less than that each month for your amputation. In 2024, the most you can receive is $3,822 per month for SSDI and $943 per month for SSI.
These upper limits will apply regardless of how many qualifying conditions you apply with or which condition ultimately qualifies you for disability benefits. The monthly benefit check is based on work history for SSDI, or other sources of income for SSI.
You can still apply if you are unsure if your amputation aligns with SSA requirements. Just remember you will need to prove you are unable to work in any capacity because of your amputation.
Generally, the application process is challenging. The SSA denies roughly 80% of initial applicants. Persistence is critical, though, as the chances of winning an appeal are significantly higher for applicants who appeal the initial denial.
Frequently asked questions about qualifying for disability
What conditions qualify for disability benefits?
Any medical condition that leaves you unable to work can qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The SSA has a list of common qualifying conditions in the Blue Book. You can also check our full guide to all the conditions that can qualify for disability.
Does my condition affect my disability benefit?
No, the medical condition you have doesn’t affect how much you get from SSDI or SSI. Where you live also doesn’t impact your check size.
We recommend applying for benefits as soon as you know you’ll be unable to work. The application process takes a while — a year or longer for the average person. The sooner you submit your application, the sooner you can get your benefits.
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