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I have clients who need to use a cane when walking or standing. Often the cane is for balance, but sometimes also due to weakness in the legs. Social Security has policy on the vocational impact of the need to use a cane or other handlheld assistive devices (such as a walker).

Social Security Ruling 96-9p discusses the use of a medically-required handheld assistive device when considering a claimant’s ability to transition to other work (step 5 of the sequential evaluation). The Ruling states in part:

To find that a hand-held assistive device is medically required, there must be medical documentation establishing the need for a hand-held assistive device to aid in walking or standing, and describing the circumstances for which it is needed (i.e., whether all the time, periodically, or only in certain situations; distance and terrain; and any other relevant information).

The ruling states that the vocational impact use of the cane depends upon the facts of the case. It may not have that much of an effect on Sedentary work, but at the Light exertional level, which requires more standing and walking, a cane has a much larger impact, in my view. If you are using a cane with one hand, you only have one hand available to lift and to carry. Depending on the job, the need for a cane can really impact a person’s ability to complete required work tasks.

Don’t wait for the hearing to argue about this issue. You may need to develop medical evidence that the cane is medically necessary, and under what circumstances it is needed.