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Receiving Disability Benefits for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis
If you have a physical impairment that limits your ability to perform your daily tasks and work to earn a living, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis and disability benefits are certainly possible if the condition prevents you from working. The SSA has strict medical requirements for physical and mental impairments along with work history requirements and resources and income requirements.
The SSA uses an impairment listing guide to help determine whether you will qualify for disability benefits. Obtaining these benefits may not be as straightforward or simple as you imagine. It can be extremely helpful to speak to a knowledgeable Social Security disability attorney from Carmichael Law Group, LLC. Our firm focuses exclusively on SSDI. Since SSDI is a nationwide program, we can help you no matter where you live. Let us use our experience, knowledge, and skills to help you during this difficult time.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder in which the immune system attacks its own tissues, including the joints. Most typically, rheumatoid arthritis affects the joint linings, causing painful inflammation.
Over time, this inflammation can cause erosion of the joints and deformity of the joints. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, although medications (anti-rheumatic drugs) and physiotherapy can sometimes help slow the progression of the disease. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can include the following, usually beginning in the smaller joints first:
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Unusual fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Joint stiffness that is generally worse in the mornings or following periods of inactivity
Nearly half of all of those with rheumatoid arthritis also experience signs and symptoms that may affect the skin, lungs, eyes, bone marrow, blood vessels, nerve tissues, salivary glands, kidneys, or the heart. Rheumatoid arthritis can vary in severity and can come and go.
Osteoarthritis is often referred to as degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis and is the most common form of arthritis in the United States. Osteoarthritis typically affects the hands, hips, and knees. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, aching, swelling, and decreased range of motion. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis does not affect the body’s organs and is not an autoimmune disease.
Are Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis Disabilities Under Social Security Disability Rules?
Rheumatoid arthritis is considered a qualifying disability under SSDI, but it must be advanced to meet the requirements. This means your rheumatoid arthritis must be severe enough to prevent you from working for at least 12 months. Osteoarthritis, unlike rheumatoid arthritis, is not actually listed in the SSA impairment listing guide but can be covered under Musculoskeletal, section 1.00. To qualify, you must have a significant history of joint pain and stiffness, together with loss of motion in the joint. Your osteoarthritis must make it extremely difficult to use both your hands effectively to work or complete everyday tasks.
Providing Proof for Rheumatoid Arthritis or Osteoarthritis and Disability Benefits
If you are filing for disability based on your rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, you will need a complete medical history documenting the disorder. To prove rheumatoid arthritis, you must have evidence of the following:
- Involuntary weight loss
- Severe fatigue
- Cardiac or pulmonary disorders related to your RA diagnosis
- Pain or deformity in upper arm joints that make performing fine motor skills difficult
- Mobility challenges necessitating a walker, crutches, cane, wheelchair, or other assistive devices
- Pain or deformity in the knee, hip, or other weight-bearing joint
- Related problems with other body systems
Tests that can help confirm a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis include blood antibody tests, inflammation blood tests, and imaging tests.
To prove osteoarthritis, you must meet certain criteria such as anatomical deformity of the joints or loss of range of motion and pain. Relevant medical documentation to confirm your diagnosis of osteoarthritis can include—but is not limited to—the following:
- An explanation from you and your physician regarding how your osteoarthritis affects you—i.e., how the osteoarthritis in your hands affects your fine motor skills like writing
- The pain you experience on a daily basis that is related to movement, and to your osteoarthritis
- A list of the medications you take to provide pain relief along with side effects from those medications
- Whether you are in physical or occupational therapy, and, if so, how often it is required
- Whether you have specific difficulties preparing meals, feeding yourself, showering, getting dressed, or other daily activities
- Any CT scans, X-rays, or other imaging results that will confirm the severity of your osteoarthritis
If your osteoarthritis fails to meet impairment listing criteria under Musculoskeletal, you may still qualify for SSD benefits by having the SSA look at your residual functional capacity (RFC). An RFC assessment is used to determine what type of work you can perform despite your limitations from osteoarthritis.
While meeting the impairment listing guidelines is important, it is equally important that the “storytelling” of your impairment clearly shows the impact the impairment has had on your life and on your ability to work.
Social Security does not pay for partial disability or short-term disability—only total disability. SSA determines whether you are disabled by asking the following five questions:
- Are you currently working? If you are working, and you are consistently making more than $1,310 per month, you will probably not be considered disabled.
- Does your disability prevent you from performing basic work-related activities (walking, standing, sitting, remembering)? In short, is your condition considered “severe?”
- Does your disabling medical condition meet or equal the severity of a listing found in the Blue Book list of medical conditions?
- Are you able to do the work you did prior to your disability?
- Can you make an adjustment to do any other type of work?
Getting Help with Your Rheumatoid Arthritis or Osteoarthritis and Disability Benefits from Carmichael Law Group
At Carmichael Law Group, LLC, we focus exclusively on Social Security Disability. We have compassion for your situation and your inability to work and make a living. Paired with that compassion is an overarching desire to help you through this difficult time by using our experience, skills, and knowledge to help you obtain the disability benefits you need and deserve.
While it is extremely beneficial to obtain legal representation at the beginning of your rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis and disability benefits journey, we can help you at any stage of the process. We can help you file your initial disability application, ensuring it has the very best chance of success, or we can help you at any stage of the appeal process. The attorneys at Carmichael Law Group, LLC want to help you get your life back on track. Contact Carmichael Law Group today.