Organ Transplants

Organ transplantation is the process of moving an organ from one person’s body to another, or from a donor site to another location on the patient’s own body. The emerging field of regenerative medicine is allowing scientists and engineers to create organs to be re-grown from the patient’s own cells (stem cells, or cells extracted from the failing organs). Organs and/or tissues that are transplanted within the same person’s body are called autografts. Transplants that are recently performed between two subjects of the same species are called allografts. Allografts can either be from a living or a cadaveric source.

General information
Transplants are more successful today than ever before. Organ transplant success depends on which organ is transplanted and how many organs are transplanted. More than one organ can be transplanted at one time. For example, a heart and lung transplant is possible.

Organs that can be transplanted include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Tissues include bones, tendons, cornea, skin, heart valves, nerves, and veins. Worldwide, the kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart. Cornea and musculoskeletal grafts are the most commonly transplanted tissues. Some organs, such as the brain, cannot be transplanted.

Organ donors may be living, brain dead, or dead by circulatory death. Tissue can be recovered from donors who die of circulatory death, as well as of brain death – up to 24 hours past the cessation of heartbeat

Not everyone is a good candidate for an organ transplant. Your doctor or a transplant center will do tests to see if you qualify. You probably are not a good candidate if you have an infection, heart disease that is not under control, a drug or alcohol problem, or another serious health problem. If your tests show you are a good candidate, you are put on a waiting list.

Social Security Administration and Organ Transplants
Many people do not know that organ transplantation automatically makes you eligible for Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits for a period of 12 months after your surgery. You may continue to be eligible after the first year if your medical condition continues to prevent gainful employment.

The SSA will review your application for disability benefits with all your supporting medical documentation against the provisions that appear in the Disability Evaluation Under Social Security Listing of Impairments. Organ transplants are listed in the following sections:

  • Section 3.11 – Lung Transplant
  • Section 4.09 – Heart Transplant
  • Section 5.09 – Liver Transplant
  • Section 6.00.E.2 – Kidney Transplant
  • Section 7.17 – Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplant

All organ transplant listings contain the same basic information. Essentially, all transplant listings state that, after undergoing transplant surgery, you will be considered disabled for 12 months following the surgery. After 12 months have passed, the SSA will review any residual impairment under the appropriate medical listing and decide whether to continue or terminate your benefits.

If you are waiting to undergo organ transplant surgery, chances are you have not worked in some time. Your representative can help you determine whether your impairment is severe enough, prior to your surgery, for you to qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration.