ASSISTIVE DEVICES & THE SSA
WHAT IS AN ASSISTIVE DEVICE?
An assistive device, according to the SSA, is any item or piece of equipment that you use to improve your ability to keep your balance, use your hands, and move about and walk. An assistive device can be worn, held in your hand, or it can be used in a seated position.
Assistive devices can vary widely and may include mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. They can also include hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, communication devices, and other equipment. For example, there are devices that blind people use to record conversations and write letters. All of these devices aim to enhance your independence, mobility, communication, and your quality of life. Learn more about resources for the blind here.
The concept of assistive devices is important to the Social Security Administration (SSA) because it plays an important role in deciding whether you can be paid SSDI and SSI benefits. If your medical condition does not meet or equal a listing, then the SSA will look at your functional limitations to decide if they can pay you benefits.
Assistive devices are crucial in understanding your physical limits and your ability to perform work activities. Assistive devices can help you overcome certain medical impairments. Likewise, they can enhance your mobility, communication, and overall ability to function in a workplace. By understanding how you are using your specific assistive device, the SSA can better determine your residual functional capacity (RFC).
HOW DOES THE SSA VIEW ASSISTIVE EQUIPMENT?
In order for the SSA to believe that you really need to use your cane, walker, or other assistive equipment, they will require that you have a “documented medical need” for the device. This means that there must be objective medical evidence supporting your medical need for the device for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
Having a “medical need” means that you require the device to improve your ability to function. Additionally, the medical evidence must describe any limits in your arms and legs and the circumstances for which you need the device.
The SSA also states that they do not require you to have a specific prescription for the assistive device. But it is simply not true. In every hearing where an assistive device is at issue, the judge will ask you if you have a “prescription” for the device. In other words, did a doctor tell you to get it. If a doctor, nurse, therapist, or other health professional told you to get the device, make sure they write it down in your medical records. In practice, the judge will not give your need for the device any notice unless you can prove you have a prescription for it.
HOW TO ESTABLISH A “DOCUMENTED MEDICAL NEED” FOR AN ASSISTIVE DEVICE
To establish a medical need for an assistive device, the SSA considers the following factors:
- Medical Evaluation: Your medical records should include an evaluation from a doctor who has examined and treated you. Your doctors report should document your specific medical condition and your resulting physical limits that require the use of an assistive device.
- Prescription: A prescription from a doctor, nurse, or therapist, can provide strong evidence of a documented medical need. The medical opinion regarding your need for the assistive device is crucial to establish medical need.
- Functional Limitations: The medical evince must clearly show how your physical condition impacts your ability to perform daily tasks. It should also show that the device is necessary for you to function independently.
- Treatment History: The SSA will look at your history of medical treatment. If the use of an assistive device is common to treat your condition, then it strengthens your case that you have a medical need for the device.
IS A PROSTHESIS AN ASSISTIVE DEVICE?
A prosthesis is a wearable artificial limb that takes the place of an absent body part. If you have a prosthesis, the SSA needs evidence from a medical source that documents your ability to walk, or perform fine and gross movements, with the prosthesis in place.
The SSA states that if you have an amputation that involves one or both legs, it is not necessary for the doctor to evaluate your ability to walk without the prosthesis in place. Isn’t that nice of them?
If you cannot use your prosthesis due to problems affecting your limbs, then the SSA will need evidence from a doctor that explains the condition of your residual limbs. The SSA will also need evidence about the medical basis for your inability to use the devices. For example, if you cannot wear your prosthetic leg because the skin of your stump splits open every time you wear it, then you will need to show that in your medical records.
HOW MANY PEOPLE IN THE USA UNDER 65 YEARS OLD USE A PROSTHESIS?
There are almost 1.7 million people under the age of 65 in the United States who use a prosthesis. This represents about 0.5% of the total population under the age of 65. The most common types of prostheses used by people in this age group are leg prostheses. These replace a lost or amputated leg. Upper extremity prostheses, which replace a lost or amputated arm, are less common.
The most common reasons for people under the age of 65 to need a prosthesis are:
- Traumatic injuries, such as car accidents or sports injuries.
- Cancer, which can sometimes require the amputation of a limb.
- Birth defects, such as congenital limb absence or limb deformity.
- Other medical conditions, such as diabetes type 2 or peripheral artery disease, which lead to limb amputation.
INFORMATION ABOUT VETERANS WHO USE A PROSTHESIS
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), there are almost 1.4 million veterans in the US who use a prosthesis. This represents about 4.5% of the total veteran population. The most common types of prostheses used by veterans are leg prostheses, which replace an amputated leg. Lean more about Veterans benefits here.
The most common reasons for veterans to need a prosthesis are:
- Traumatic injuries, such as combat injuries or injuries sustained in training accidents.
- Cancer, which can sometimes require the amputation of a limb.
- Other medical conditions, such as diabetes or peripheral artery disease, which require limb amputation.
ORTHOSIS OR BRACES AS ASSISTIVE DEVICES
An orthosis is a wearable device, such as a brace, that supports, aligns, protects, or improves the function of a body part. If you have an orthosis, the SSA will need evidence from a medical source showing your ability to walk, or perform fine and gross movements, with the orthosis in place. If you cannot use your orthosis, then the SSA will need evidence from a doctor that explains the medical reason as to why you cannot use the device.
Orthoses can serve different purposes to help the medical condition that is being treated. Some common types of orthoses include:
- Foot Orthoses: These devices support and align the feet. They can be used to treat conditions such as flat feet, plantar fasciitis, or foot deformities.
- Ankle and Foot Brace: These devices provide support and stability to the ankle and foot. They are often prescribed for conditions like drop foot, cerebral palsy, or ankle instability.
- Knee Brace: Knee orthoses, also known as knee braces, are used to provide support and stability to the knee joint. They can be used for conditions such as ligament injuries, arthritis, or patellar tracking disorder.
- Spinal Brace: These are devices used to support and immobilize the spine. Examples include back braces or scoliosis braces, which can help manage spinal deformities or provide support to the back after an operation.
- Hand and Wrist Braces: Orthotic devices for the hand and wrist are used to provide support or proper alignment for conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or wrist fractures.
HAND HELD ASSISTIVE DEVICES
Hand held assistive devices include walkers, canes, or crutches. You hold onto these devices with your hands to support or aid you in walking. When you use a one handed, hand held device to walk, like a cane, then you cannot use your other upper extremity for fine or gross movements. This will impact your ability to perform some kinds of jobs. When you use two canes, then you will not be able to use both arms to do other work activity.
If you use a hand held assistive device, then the SSA will need evidence from your doctor describing how you are able to walk with the device.
According to the National Health and Aging Trends Study, about 4,094,000 people in the United States use a walker. This represents about 11.6% of the total population. The use of walkers is more common among older adults, with 25.2% of adults aged 65 and older using a walker. The most common reasons for using a walker are balance problems, weakness, and pain. Walkers can help people maintain their independence. More importantly, they can also help prevent falls.
For purposes of SSDI and SSI benefits, almost 1,267,000 people under the age of 65 use a walker. This represents about 3.4% of the total population under the age of 65. The use of walkers is more common among adults aged 45-64, with 4.5% of adults in this age group using a walker. The most common reasons for using a walker among adults under the age of 65 are balance problems, weakness, and pain.
Here are some more statistics about walker use among adults under the age of 65 in the United States:
- Walker use is higher among women than men.
- Walker use is higher among people with lower incomes.
- Walker use is higher among people with chronic health conditions, such as arthritis, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease.
Wheeled and seated mobility devices are assistive devices that you use in a seated position. Below are a few examples of wheelchairs. Each type of chair can have other features and customization options to meet the needs of the user.
Some wheeled and seated devices involve the use of both hands. If you use a wheeled and seated device that involves the use of both hands, then you will probably not be able to use your arms to do work activity. For example, if you are using both hands to move a wheelchair then you may not be able to type, write, or perform fine movements with your hands. This can impact your ability to do desk jobs. But the use of a wheelchair can also impact your ability to perform a job that requires standing throughout the day.
YOUR RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY CAN HELP YOU WIN BENEFITS
Even if you don’t meet or equal SSA’s listing, you can still win benefits if your medical condition impairs your residual functional capacity. Your RFC is SSA’s finding of what you can physically do in a work setting, considering your symptoms.
Your RFC includes your physical limits. In terms of physical limits, the SSA tries to define your ability to sit, stand, walk, and lift, during the course of an 8 hour workday. Likewise, the SSA will include your ability to carry, pull, and push. It includes your ability to kneel, crouch, crawl, and go up and down stairs. Also, if you are using an assistive device, the SSA will consider your fatigue from doing these activities. Find out more about how the SSA defines work here. A limited RFC proves you cannot work.
In order to figure out your physical RFC, the SSA will read your medical records. They will take into account what your doctor says about you in your medical records. Additionally, the SSA has their own doctors that can review your medical records. These doctors work for DDS, the state agency who reviews all SSD cases. The SSA will take the medical opinion of these doctors into account too. Likewise, if they need more information, they may send you to a medical exam at their expense. Learn more here about what to expect at SSA’s doctor exam.
HOW DOES THE SSA FIGURE OUT YOUR RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY?
In order to determine your RFC, the SSA first looks to the medical evidence in your case. That is why it is so important for the SSA to have all of your medical evidence. It is your “burden” or responsibility to provide all of your medical evidence to the SSA.
Normally, hiring a lawyer to help you do this is a wise choice. Learn more here about how to obtain your medical evidence for free. If you do not have enough medical evidence for them to make a decision, then they will arrange for you to have a medical exam. A medical exam can be done for your mental and your physical conditions. Find out more about consultative exams here.
A CONSULTATIVE EXAM CAN DOCUMENT YOUR ASSISTIVE DEVICE
If you have a physical medical condition, then the SSA can send you to see one of their doctors for an exam. In the last few years, however, they have been sending our clients to see a physical therapist. Either way, the point of the visit is for the doctor to document your physical symptoms. The doctor will also write down in a report whether you are using any assistive devices.
Therefore, if you use a cane in daily life, make sure you use it when you visit the doctor. Likewise, make sure you tell the doctor what your physical limits are. If the doctor asks you how much you can lift, tell her about the pain you experience with lifting. Likewise, if you use a wheelchair or walker at home, then you need to use it when you go to your exam. If you use any assistive devices, then use them at the exam. That way the doctor will be able to document for the SSA that you need the device.
The medical exam is a chance for you to let the SSA know about your limits. If you don’t bring your assistive device to the exam, then the doctor will assume you don’t need it. There is not cost for you to attend these exams. However, if the SSA schedules you for an exam and you fail to attend, then your case will be denied. Learn more about SSA exams here.
WHAT WE DO TO HELP YOU WIN SSD AND SSI BENEFITS
You don’t need to apply for Social Security benefits by yourself. You can always call our law firm and we will help you win benefits. We can help you file your SSD and SSI application. Also, we can help you appeal every SSA denial. For example, our attorneys and staff can:
- Send you the paperwork you need to become our client
- Help you file your application for SSD and SSI benefits
- Inform the SSA that they should automatically pay your benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Rules
- Submit an appeal if you receive an initial denial from Disability Determination Services
- Help you schedule and confirm your Consultative Exam
- Request a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
- Prepare you to be a good witness at your SSA hearing
- Represent you at your hearing and question the expert witnesses
- Read more about vocational experts here
- Learn more about medical expert testimony here
- Request review of a decision at the Appeals Council
- Request review of an Appeals Council denial in Federal Court
If you file your application for benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you an application summary in the mail. You must sign the summary and mail it back. If you don’t send it back, the SSA will not process your application. Sign it and send it back as soon as you can.
WE OFFER A FREE REVIEW OF YOUR SSD CASE
If you need help filing for SSDI and SSI benefits and you use an assistive device, then reach out to Cannon Disability Law. Taking the first step by calling us. All you need to do is contact our legal team.
Additionally, we offer a free review of your case. What that means is that you can call us and explain your situation. At that point, we will look at the merits of your case for free and let you know if you have a chance to win benefits. We do not charge you for our review of your case.
In the past 30 years, we have won over $100 million in SSDI and SSI benefits for our clients. We are experts at what we do and we will put our knowledge to work for you. Hire us to be your Social Security legal team.
We help clients win benefits in many states, including Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and California. Find out more about your benefits and how to apply in your state here:
- California SSDI and SSI benefits
- Colorado SSDI and SSI benefit information
- Idaho SSDI and SSI benefits
- Nevada SSDI and SSI benefits
- Utah SSDI and SSI benefits
No matter where you live, we want to be your legal team. Hire the best Social Security legal team with no money down. Also, there will be no attorney fee unless we win your case. Contact us today. We will do our best to help you win SSDI and SSI benefits.
YOU ONLY PAY ATTORNEY FEES IF YOU WIN YOUR BENEFITS
The SSA has capped attorney fees in Social Security cases at 25% of your past due or back benefit or $7200, which ever amount is less. This is the most your attorney can charge when they win your case.
For example, if your attorney wins your SSDI case and your back benefit is $10,000, then the attorney fee will be 25% of the back benefit, or $2500. In such a case, you would not pay the $7200 cap. Instead, the attorney fee is 25% of the back benefit, which is less than the cap. This is what happens in most SSDI and SSI cases.
In another example, if you attorney wins your SSDI case and your back benefit is $100,000, the attorney fee is not $25,000, which is 25% of the back benefit. Instead, the attorney fee would be $7200. Because $7200 is the most your attorney can charge you after winning your case at the hearing level or below. That is true even if 25% is higher than the $7200 cap. Learn more about attorney fees here.
Additionally, your attorney can only charge an attorney fee if they win your case. In other words, if you do not win your benefits, then you do not pay an attorney fee. This means that your attorney has worked for up to two years on your case for free. So, if you don’t get benefits, your attorney doesn’t get paid. Obviously, your attorney has a good reason to win your case. Because we don’t get paid unless you win your benefits.
IS IT WORTH THE ATTORNEY FEE TO HIRE AN SSD LAWYER?
It isn’t easy to get Social Security benefits and the application process can be frustrating for most people. But, having an attorney throughout this appeal process can help. It is our belief that when you have a law firm with experience handling your Social Security case, the SSA makes sure they follow their own procedures.
Additionally, when you have an attorney with legal experience, they will have access to Social Security’s decisions throughout the process. They can also submit medical evidence that may be missing from your case.
There is evidence that hiring an attorney with the proper experience raises your chances of winning your SSDI and SSI benefits by 30%. It is also smart to hire an attorney to help you at your hearing. After all, you are the star witness at your hearing. If you hire an attorney with experience, they can prepare you to be a good witness at your hearing. Learn more about how to prepare for your hearing here.
HIRE US FOR OUR YEARS OF LEGAL EXPERIENCE
The SSA benefits application and appeal process can be long and complex. If you need an assistive device and you cannot work, then worrying about benefits is the last thing you want to do. Hire Cannon Disability Law to give you legal advice and walk you through the application process. In the past 30 years, we have won millions of dollars in ongoing and past due due SSD benefits for our clients.
If you want to win SSDI and SSI benefits, then hire an attorney with the legal experience to win your case. We work on a contingency basis. This means we do not charge you any money up front to help you or for you to become our client. Then, you only pay us an attorney fee when you win benefits. If you don’t win, you don’t pay an attorney fee.
HIRE US TO HELP YOU PROVE YOU NEED YOUR ASSISTIVE DEVICE AND YOU CANNOT WORK
If you want to learn more about our lawyers and staff, then read our About Us page. For example, you can learn about Andria Summers, who has 21 years of experience working at Cannon Disability Law. She can also help you with your Medicare advantage plan. She has also won thousands of SSDI and SSI cases.
Additionally, Dianna Cannon has been helping her clients win benefits for over thirty years. Ms. Cannon has years of Federal Court experience. Brett Bunkall also has years of legal experience helping people obtain their SSI and SSD benefits.
In the last 30 years, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI cases. Additionally, we have won over $100 million in ongoing and back due benefits for our clients. Many of our clients, due to our work, do not have to attend a hearing. Instead, they win their case at an earlier level of appeal.
Make sure that you hire an attorney with the legal experience to win your benefits. Too much is at stake to attempt to win benefits on your own. We are Social Security law experts. You can trust us to help you win your benefits, especially if you are using assistive devices. We want to make the difficult process of winning benefits as easy as possible for you. For help, contact us today.