A disability lawyer’s advice on qualifying for assistance due to the effects of burns.
Author Attorney Greg Reed:
Burns are one of the most common injuries experienced by adults and children. Although most people recover quickly, some burns are so severe they limit a person’s day to day activities and cause serious health consequences.
Burns can be caused by:
- Hot, boiling liquids
- Fires (including matches, candles, and lighters)
- Excessive sun exposure
Burns are characterized as first, second or third degree, based on the level of damage.
First degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin, the epidermis. The skin appears red, but does not blister and sheds off as the burn heals. Usually, first degree burns heal in 7-10 days.
Second degree burns affect the first layer of skin and the second layer, the dermis.
The skin blisters, and there is some thickening of the skin. Second degree burns may cause scarring and often the skin pigment changes. Most second-degree burns heal in 2-3 weeks.
Third degree burns extend through all layers of the skin and are the most serious.
These burns result in thickness of the skin and may have a charred appearance or dark brown color. Although third-degree burns are the most severe, they may not be the most painful because they can cause nerve damage. Without surgery, these burns may heal with scarring and muscle contracture.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from the effects of burns. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
First and second-degree burns can be treated at home by soaking the affected area in cool water, applying an anesthetic such as lidocaine and an anti-biotic ointment, and covering the area with loose gauze to keep it clean.
Aspirin or ibuprofen can relieve pain. Medical attention may be necessary if a large area of the body, or the face or hands, are affected, but emergency care should always be sought for treating third degree burns. In some cases, skin grafting, which takes healthy skin from another area of the body and moves it to the site of burned skin, may be necessary.
All burns can become infected, but third-degree burns are at the most risk for complications.
Among the problems which may develop are:
- Blood loss
- Tetanus (a bacterial infection that affects the nervous system)
- Hypothermia (low body temperature caused by excessive loss of body heat)
- Hypovolemia (low blood volume)
- Breathing problems from hot air or smoke
- Bone and joint problems caused by shortening and tightening of muscles and tendons
Burns can cause a person to lose the ability to perform daily functions and prevent them from working.
The Social Security Administration recognizes burns as an impairment in its Blue Book, but whether or not an applicant is approved for disability benefits depends on the area of the body burned and the severity. Burns are mentioned in both Sections 1.00 and 8.00:
1.0 Musculoskeletal System
- Disorders of the musculoskeletal system
- Loss of function.
General. Under this section, loss of function may be due to bone or joint deformity or destruction from any cause; miscellaneous disorders of the spine with or without radiculopathy or other neurological deficits; amputation; or fractures or soft tissue injuries, including burns, requiring prolonged periods of immobility or convalescence. The provisions of 1.02 and 1.03 notwithstanding, inflammatory arthritis is evaluated under 14.09 (see 14.00D6). Impairments with neurological causes are to be evaluated under 11.00ff.
- Skin lesions caused by burns do not allow the applicant to perform their job; and
- The effects of the burns on the body and body functions are expected to last more than 12 months.
These may result from hereditary, congenital, or acquired pathologic processes. Impairments may result from infectious, inflammatory, or degenerative processes, traumatic or developmental events, or neoplastic, vascular, or toxic/metabolic diseases.
1.08 Soft tissue injury (e.g., burns) of an upper or lower extremity, trunk, or face and head, under continuing surgical management, as defined in 1.00M, directed toward the salvage or restoration of major function, and such major function was not restored or expected to be restored within 12 months of onset.
Major function of the face and head is described in 1.00.
8.00 Skin Disorders
A. What skin disorders do we evaluate with these listings?
We use these listings to evaluate skin disorders that may result from hereditary, congenital, or acquired pathological processes. The kinds of impairments covered by these listings are: Ichthyosis, bullous diseases, chronic infections of the skin or mucous membranes, dermatitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, genetic photosensitivity disorders, and burns.
F. How do we evaluate burns?
Electrical, chemical, or thermal burns frequently affect other body systems; for example, musculoskeletal, special senses and speech, respiratory, cardiovascular, renal, neurological, or mental. Consequently, we evaluate burns the way we evaluate other disorders that can affect the skin and other body systems, using the listing for the predominant feature of your impairment. For example, if your soft tissue injuries are under continuing surgical management (as defined in 1.00M), we will evaluate your impairment under 1.08. However, if your burns do not meet the requirements of 1.08 and you have extensive skin lesions that result in a very serious limitation (as defined in 8.00C1) that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months, we will evaluate them under 8.08.
8.08 Burns, with extensive skin lesions that have lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months (see 8.00F).
In order to qualify for disability under these listings, an applicant must provide medical evidence that:
Additionally, to qualify under Listing 1.08, an applicant must be undergoing treatment by a surgeon to restore or preserve functional use of the burned area.
This includes recovering from any complications resulting from treatment such as infection.
Any medical evidence provided by an applicant’s doctor should describe the burns and detail activities an applicant is prevented from doing, treatments given and the patient’s response to those treatments, and state that the effects will continue for more than 12 months.
If an applicant does not meet the criteria of a listing, they may still qualify if their functional limitations prevent them from working. Burns can result in decreased strength and range of motion limiting a person’s ability to perform any number of physical tasks such as lifting, pulling, pushing, carrying items, walking, standing or sitting.
You may be eligible for disability benefits if you have burns that may take more than a year to heal.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a FREE consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Author: Attorney Greg Reed has been practicing law for 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Reed obtained board certification from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Greg is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the United States Court of Appeals-Fifth Circuit. Mr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association, and an Associate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mr. Reed and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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