While many of us live and work with minor arthritis, individuals receiving Social Security Disability benefits typically suffer from more serious forms of the disease. In fact, severe arthritis is one of the most common medical conditions noted among individuals receiving disability benefits.
How the SSA Categorizes Arthritis
The Social Security Administration (SSA) includes arthritis in its Blue Book Listings of eligible medical conditions. The book of listings has specific medical criteria for arthritis and other medical conditions that helps claimants determine the validity of their claim. According to the SSA, successful claimants need to meet the following requirements:
- Persistent inflammation or deformity of:
- One or more peripheral weight-bearing joints resulting in the inability to move effectively
- One or more major peripheral joints in an upper extremity resulting in the inability to preform fine movements
- Inflammation or deformity of one or more major peripheral joints with:
- Involvement of two or more organs/body systems with one of the organs/body systems involved in moderate level of severity AND
- At least two of the constitutional symptoms (fever, malaise, involuntary weight loss, severe fever)
- Ankylosing spondylitis or other spondyloarthropathies
- Repeated manifestations of inflammatory arthritis with at least two of the constitutional symptoms (malaise, involuntary weight loss, severe fatigue, fever) and one of the following:
- Limitation of daily living activities
- Limitation in maintaining social functions
- Limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner
If you’re not working with a disability lawyer, we’d encourage you to review the above criteria with your primary treating physician who can provide some insight on the above.
What About Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disorder that results in severe inflammation of your body’s synovial fluid. This inflammation erodes and degrades joints over time, causing severe pain and deformity.
Many individuals applying for disability suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. When evaluating your claim, the SSA will use the same criteria for rheumatoid arthritis as they do for less severe versions of the disease.
No matter which form of arthritis you’re diagnosed with, SSA evaluates your claim based on how it impacts your ability to perform work. To be approved for disability benefits, your arthritis must prevent you from working except in very limited capacities.
In addition, your arthritis must be considered long-term with the ability to affect you for 12 consecutive months or longer. In general, if you have arthritis that responds well to treatment and/or pain relievers, it may be difficult to prove your claim for disability.
How Do I Know I Have a Good Claim?
In general, good claims for disability have solid medical evidence establishing the severity and duration of the diagnosis. That means, claimants who have successful claims typically present medical notes, diagnostics and other treatments notes from their physicians documenting the progression of their disease.
SSA uses this evidence to evaluate your claim. In many cases, a history of substance abuse may harm your claim, but not always. It’s important to speak with an expert who can advise you on the specific details of your claim.
Ask yourself these three questions to determine if you may have a good claim for disability:
- Does my arthritis prevent me from doing any kind of work? (It’s important to remember that the standard for disability is not that you can’t do your previous work, but that you can’t perform work of ANY kind. So, think about a job that isn’t physically demanding; a good example is a ticket booth attendant in a parking garage. Could you perform that job? If you’d have difficulty performing that job due to your arthritis, you may have a good claim.)
- Has my arthritis impacted my ability to work for 12 consecutive months or longer?
- Is my arthritis well documented in my medical records or do I have a supportive physician who can help me with my claim?
If you answered yes to some or all of the questions listed above and would like a second opinion on your claim, contact us today. We offer free consultations and there’s no obligation to hire the firm.