When Rheumatoid Arthritis Becomes a Disability

Arthritis is a term used to describe a medical condition where a person’s joints are inflamed. Inflamed joints cause stiffness, soreness and swelling.  One type of arthritis is inflammatory or Rheumatoid arthritis, which is actually a systemic disease capable of affecting your entire body including your cardiovascular or respiratory systems.  If someone with rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t get treated, this autoimmune disease can cause permanent damage.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis a Disability?

A diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis alone isn’t enough to be considered disabled for Social Security purposes. You are only considered disabled when a condition limits your normal movements, senses or activities in a way that prevents you from working.

If you find that your inflammatory arthritis limits your ability to work, you should work closely with your doctor to document your condition. The Social Security Administration (SSA) needs sufficient evidence detailing how your condition prevents you from working or performing daily tasks that you otherwise would be able to do.

To determine if you qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI), the SSA will first determine whether or not you are currently working. If you are employed (defined as earning at least $1,220 per month in 2019), you will be disqualified based on your demonstrated ability to work.

You must also meet specific medical criteria in order to qualify for benefits. To meet these criteria, you must have swelling and pain and your joint movement must be limited or painful.  In most cases if the SSA determines that you do not medically qualify based on your observable symptoms, they will consider whether you can reasonably be expected to perform any type of work that you have done in the last 15 years t or any other work in the National Economy If they determine that you can, you will be denied Social Security Disability benefits.

Applying for Social Security Disability Due to Inflammatory Arthritis

You can apply for Social Security Disability in person at your local office, online at www.ssa.gov, or by calling the SSA at 800-772-1213.  You will need to complete a disability application which will include detailed medical information, such as treating doctors and medications, as well as names and dates of employment for your previous employers. Once your application is complete, your file will be sent to a Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. A claims examiner will request and review your medical records. When the examiner feels there is sufficient evidence to make a decision, you will be notified by mail. The process normally takes 3 to 4 months but could take longer in some cases. If your claim for disability is denied, you will be able to file an appeal. It is important to note that most initial claims are denied.

Appealing the Denial of Social Security Disability Benefits

Your best chance of having a Social Security Disability case approved because of Rheumatoid Arthritis comes during your hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  You are allowed to have representation during the hearing and this is highly recommended. You are much more likely to win your case if you are represented by an experienced Social Security Disability attorney.

A Social Security Disability attorney is very familiar with how the Social Security Administration handles Rheumatoid Arthritis claims and can help you prepare your appeal and collect the essential evidence. Most importantly, a Social Security Disability attorney will understand the complicated process and communications from the SSA and can help you formulate a valid response.   If you need assistance with your claim, we invite you to contact the Law Office of Sheri R. Abrams at (571) 328-5795 to have your case reviewed.