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Hand Disorders and SSA Disability Benefits

There are a variety of hand disorders, conditions or diseases which may make it difficult for workers to write, perform gross manipulation, complete fine manipulation or lift objects. The ability to use both hands can be considered disabling, especially for SSDI or SSI claimants who are over the age of 55. Common hand conditions can include:

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A hand affected by rheumatoid arthritis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)"]A hand affected by rheumatoid arthritis[/caption]

Common symptoms of a severe hand condition can include swelling, severe pain, loss of motor function, hand deformity, rashes, bruises, and decreased mobility.

Proving you are disabled with severe hand disorders

Whether you have applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to win benefits for a severe hand condition you will either have to prove that your condition is so severe it meets or equals a listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments or through a medical vocational allowance, which is a process used by the SSA to determine whether you have enough residual capacity to work considering your age, work history, medical condition and education.

Meeting a listing in the SSA Listing of Impairments for Hand Disorders

Severe hand disorders will be evaluated under listing 1.00 Musculoskeletal System, section 1.02 Major Dysfunction of a joint due to any cause. Under this section the SSA will be evaluating if your condition is “characterized by gross anatomical deformity (e.g., subluxation, contracture, bony or fibrous ankylosis, instability) and chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s), and findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the affected joint(s).”

The SSA will determine if the disorder includes the “involvement of one major peripheral joint in each upper extremity (i.e., shoulder, elbow, or wrist-hand), resulting in inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively.”

Meeting the listing for this condition is very difficult. Arguably the claimant would have had to have a severe injury or a disease which has affected both hands and is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months.

Proving disability through a medical vocational allowance

What is more likely than meeting a listing for a hand disease or condition is proving that you are disabled through a medical vocational allowance. Older claimants who suffer from pain, numbness, muscle weakness, the inability to write or type, or to perform other fine manipulations may be able to win SSI or SSDI through a medical vocational allowance, especially if they have been limited to light or sedentary work. Why, because it will be difficult to complete sedentary work if the claimant does not have use of their hands.

What medical evidence do I need to win SSDI or SSI?

The most important thing for you to do is to get clear medical evidence of the limitations you have using your hands. Unfortunately, most doctors to do not clearly list limitations in their medical notes and may not normally perform the right testing to document your limitations. It may be necessary to request that you are sent to a vocational rehabilitation center for additional testing to get the evidence you need to prove your SSI or SSDI claim.

Disability lawyers also can have the claimant perform a variety of demonstrations at the hearing in front of the judge to illustrate the claimant’s physical limitations to write, and assemble small objects. Limitations in daily living can also be relevant, for example, if the claimant has to have help shaving, dressing, eating or brushing their teeth.
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