If you have burns or soft tissue injuries that prevent you from working, you might qualify for Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, the process is very complicated and highly technical. And even after navigating the process, the majority of applicants receive denials from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
But do not give up hope. Getting Social Security disability for burns & soft tissues injuries in Pittsburgh is difficult, but it is not impossible with our help. Call Berger and Green to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our disability lawyers today: 412-661-1400.
Can burns or soft tissue injuries qualify?
If a doctor expects your burns or soft tissue injuries to take more than a year to heal, or if they have left behind extensive skin lesions, you might be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
Even after the initial healing has occurred, burns or soft tissue injuries often leave scar tissue behind. Scar tissue can impair the function of a person’s hands, arms, and legs. Severe burns can also cause muscle damage, damage to tendons and ligaments, and damage to nerves and blood vessels. Any of this damage can impair a person’s ability to support him/herself or his/her family.
In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, which can include both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your medical condition must either meet the requirements of the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, or cause so much impairment in your function that you are unable to work because of your injuries or medical condition.
Note: You must also meet specific criteria for SSDI and SSI. To qualify for SSDI, you must have sufficient work credits. The amount you need depends on your age. If you have not worked for long enough to receive SSDI benefits, you may qualify for SSI if you have low income and limited assets.
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What are the severity criteria I must meet for my burn or soft tissue injury claim?
That depends on whether you are currently undergoing treatment as well as where your burns or soft tissue injuries are located.
If you are currently undergoing treatment for your burns or soft tissue injuries, the SSA will evaluate you under the technical requirements of Section 1.08, which state that to qualify you must:
- Have burns or soft tissue injuries on your body, specifically on your arms, legs, trunk, or head AND
- Currently be undergoing surgical treatment to retain “functional use” of the affected area, or currently be undergoing treatment for complications, infections, or illness from the treatment, AND
- Lack the functional use of the burned area or soft tissue injuries area, with the expectation that functional use will not be restored within 12 months of the original burns or soft tissue injury.
Not Undergoing Treatment
If you are not currently undergoing treatment, or if you do not meet the requirements and you have seriously limiting skin lesions that have lasted or will lasted 12 months, you may qualify under Section 8.08.
To do so, the SSA will use the Listing of Impairments as organized by the various parts or systems of the body. The SSA will make an assessment of the level of functional use you have of the part or system of the body affected by the burns or soft tissue injuries, e.g., if your burns affect your hearing, the SSA could assess you under Section 2.10.
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What is functional use?
Functional use is the ability to use the part of the body or the body system for the usual and intended purpose.
For the legs, this would mean being able to walk, stand, sit, and other ordinary functions of the legs. For the arms, this would mean being able to use the arms for routine daily tasks.
What are extensive skin lesions?
The SSA is most concerned with functionality. If your skin lesions impact your functionality in a way that prevents you from being able to work, it will likely consider that an extensive skin lesion. For example, burns on the bottoms of your feet might limit your ability to walk or stand. Burns on your hands might prevent you from being able to perform certain tasks required for gainful employment.
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What documentation will I need for my burn or soft tissue injury claim?
You will need to provide your medical records from the time you sustained the burns or soft tissue injuries up to the time that you file your claim. This should include any surgical records and other treatments.
Since functionality sometimes improves over time with burn and soft tissue injury patients, the SSA might require continued and ongoing medical records. Any objective proof of your functional limitations will help your case.
This can include physical examination records, treatment and therapy records, and medical imaging records.
Can I still recover benefits if I do not meet the severity criteria in the Listing of Impairments?
You might still be able to recover benefits if you are able to prove that your condition is so severe that it prevents you from doing any type of work. To do so, the SSA will analyze your age, education, skill level, medical records, and ability to perform certain work-related tasks (e.g., sitting, standing, bending, reaching, etc.) to determine if there is any other work you can do.
If it determines you cannot do the same work you did before or adjust to other work, it may grant you benefits under a medical vocational allowance.
Where can I get help if the SSA denied my claim?
Evaluating whether a person qualifies as disabled is a long and complicated process. And the process all too often ends in denial, but that is not the end of the road for you.
The disability attorneys at Berger and Green can help you navigate through the appeals process, filing for your reconsideration or representing you in front of an administrative law judge.
Call 412-661-1400 today to schedule your free consultation with our Pittsburgh team.