According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “arthritis is a leading cause of work disability among US adults.” Amid the different types of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, a painful autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints. There is no cure for this disease, and while there are treatments available, they do not work for every patient.
Because rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the body, and often progresses to affect several minor and major joints, many workers with this medical condition find it difficult or impossible to continue working. If you suffer from this disease, you might be wondering what your options are regarding disability. Let’s take a look at whether or not having rheumatoid arthritis qualifies you for disability.
Understanding Social Security Disability Benefits for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Is Arthritis a Disability?
Simply being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis does not qualify you for disability. However, if your ability to work is greatly affected or impaired by your condition, then with the proper documentation, you may be entitled to SSA disability benefits.
The exact requirements that a person must meet to qualify for disability with rheumatoid arthritis are defined by the SSA blue book under Section 14.09. In general, a person must be able to provide documentation that rheumatoid arthritis has greatly affected their joints or constitution, and this has limited their ability to perform their job.
For example, you can qualify for disability with rheumatoid arthritis if you have experienced one of the following:
- Inflammation or deformity of the major joints in your arms and legs, and it has led to an inability to walk without a walker and perform fine motor movements with your hands
- Inflammation or deformity of the major joints in your arms and legs along with two organs or body systems being moderately to severely affected, and you’ve experienced weight loss, fatigue, fever, and/or malaise
- Repeated flare ups with weight loss, fatigue, fever, and/or malaise, along with a limitation of daily activities, social functioning, or the ability to turn in tasks on time
What You’ll Need to Apply for Disability With Rheumatoid Arthritis
As long as you meet one of the requirements listed in Section 14.09 and you’re unable to work, you qualify for disability benefits. In order to receive those benefits, you’ll need to provide documentation that proves these limitations. This documentation can include:
- Medical evidence showing the progression of your disease
- A physical examination with a rheumatologist that indicates the severity of your symptoms and your limitations because of those symptoms
- Blood tests, x rays, and other lab work that shows the progression of the disease.
- Documentation of how you have responded to treatments
- A Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form filled out by your doctor
Other Conditions That Qualify for Disability
There are some comorbidities (conditions that are often experienced along with another condition) with rheumatoid arthritis, including hypertension and osteoporosis. Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis also experience other autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus, Sjogren’s, and other connective tissue diseases. So, if you don’t qualify for disability under the guidelines for rheumatoid arthritis, it is possible you might qualify based on the progression of other comorbidities and conditions.
What to Do if You Want to File for Disability
It’s not uncommon for people who develop rheumatoid arthritis to seek social security disability benefits. In one study, 35% of patients ended up filing for disability within 10 years of their initial diagnosis. If you are suffering from this condition or any others and are no longer able to work, there is help available. How much money you’ll receive is dependent on the income you received in the past.
Keep in mind, SSA disability is different than Long Term Disability (LTD), which is typically offered through an employer and often has limitations on how long you can receive benefits, whereas SSA does not. It is possible to receive both, however, LTD benefits can interfere with how much SSA you qualify for.
If you’re ready to file for disability, the first step is to work with an attorney or disability advocate. Because the SSA application and approval process is complex and can take a long time, working with an experienced attorney can help you make sure you fully complete all the necessary steps, and they can help you file for an appeal should you need to.
At The Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PLLC, our attorneys offer skilled guidance through the SSA disability application process. We have successfully represented thousands of clients in Buffalo New York. Contact our office today for a free consultation.