How Severe Does Your Arthritis Need to be to Qualify? (Updated for 2023)

Submitted by Deanna on Tue, 11/15/2022 - 16:41

Is arthritis a disability? Can you get disability for arthritis? And how severe does my arthritis have to be to get disability benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) currently benefits millions of Americans and their families. However, many people who could benefit from the program are either unsure that they qualify or are intimidated by the process.  

To see if your arthritis could qualify for SSDI, we must first understand how disabilities are evaluated.

What is Arthritis?

There are many types of arthritis that affect people all over the world. The two main forms of joint pain are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

If you have arthritis and will be out of work for at least 12 months, you may be able to get disability Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disorder that affects the lining of your joints. After some time, it can harm your joint ligament and bones resulting in stiffness and pain.

Osteoarthritis happens when ligaments in your joints wear out over time. Many people may wonder is arthritis a disability. Yes. Arthritis can prompt incapacity, as can numerous other mental and physical medical conditions.

If your arthritis confines your daily movements, or activities you may qualify for disability benefits.

Your level of disability depends on the daily activities you find troublesome. For illustration, you'll have trouble:

  • walking up stairs
  • walking for a extended period of time
  • standing or sitting
  • grasping small objects
  • lifting 10 pounds or more
  • holding your arms up

Is Arthritis A Disability? 

Arthritis is considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA), in which that can qualify someone for Social Security disability benefits.

Since arthritis is seen as a disability, can you get disability for arthritis? 

The answer to this revolves around your working ability following your arthritis diagnosis. More specifically, if your arthritis keeps you from working for at least 12 months, then you may be able to qualify for disability benefits with arthritis. However, you will need to provide evidence that your arthritis meets the SSA's definition of a disability as well as a Blue Book listing.

How Arthritis Can Cause Joint Dysfunction

If you are out of work for at least 12 months, you get get disability with arthritisArthritis can cause your joints to encounter major dysfunction due to distortions such as misalignments, shortening of the joint or persistent pain and firmness.

In case your condition has expanded to a dysfunction in any of your joints, you should qualify for benefits.

Your therapeutic records (X-rays) and an explanation from your specialist ought to demonstrate that your joint isn’t working normally.

Your arthritis will appear as a deformity in your hip, lower leg or knees that creates difficulty to walk; or a disturbance in your shoulder, wrist or elbow that creates it difficulty to hold and lift items.

Spinal Arthritis And Social Security Disability 

Can you get disability for arthritis of the spine? In the event that your joint pain is influencing your spine and compromising any nerve roots inside the spinal line, you will naturally qualify for benefits. In other words, you can get disability for back pain. More specifically, in order to have the best chance of getting disability for your spinal arthritis, your arthritis should cause your spinal cord to feel far reaching pain, restricted flexibility, and irritation that requires an alter in body position from time to time.

The causes of arthritis within the back or neck change depending on the sort of joint pain you have. 

Regardless of the precise area, arthritis in the back or neck can be difficult and often turns out to be chronic. Other important information to keep in mind:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Presence of certain conditions such as
  • diabetes, psoriasis, tuberculosis, touchy bowel disorder and Lyme disease

Spinal joint pain may cause bone spurs — overgrowths on the edges of the bones. Within the spine, bone spurs especially influence facet joints, making them develop larger—a spine disorder that is called facet hypertrophy

Can You Get Disability for Arthritis in Your Hands?

So, can you get disability for arthritis in your hands? The answer is yes, you are able to get disability for arthritis in your hands so long as you are capable of showing the SSA that you meet the medical and work requirements necessary in order to qualify for Social Security disability.

To meet the medical requirements, you need to match a listing in the SSA’s blue book, which is the list of conditions that can qualify someone for disability.

You may be able to get disability for arthritis in your hands if you meet the requirements for section 14.09 of the blue book, which is for inflammatory arthritis.

When you meet the medical requirements that the SSA outlines, you also need to have enough work credits, since Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for those can no longer work full time because of a disability. Use our disability calculator to see how much you could be able to earn in disability benefits.

Qualifying With The Blue Book For Arthritis

Every SSDI application is reviewed during the Disability Determination Process, or DDS. During this process, a reviewer will look over your case and see if it fulfills the requirements for benefits laid out in the Social Security Blue Book.

The Blue Book, which can be viewed online, contains a list of disabilities (and their severities) that qualify for Social Security.

For example: if you are looking to see if your inflammatory arthritis qualifies for benefits, you would see section 14.00 - “Immune System Disorders”. Under this section is outlined four different qualifications for inflammatory arthritis to receive benefits. Either

  • There is persistent inflammation or deformity of your major joints,
  • There is inflammation or deformity of your joints along with organ systems,
  • There is an inflammation or deformity of the spine and/or its surrounding organs, or
  • There are repeated manifestations of inflammatory arthritis which limit your movement, social functioning, and daily life.

Overall, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is more likely to qualify you for benefits the more severe your impairment is. If your arthritis is consistent, untreatable, severely debilitating, and/or prevents you from earning a living for more than one year, then the chances you will receive benefits are high.  

But, can you get disability for arthritis if you don't meet a Blue Book listing or any of its other listed symptoms? If you do not meet the standards outlined in the Blue Book there may still be another way to qualify.

How Severe Does my Arthritis Need to be to Qualify?

Medical Vocational Allowance for Arthritis

Can you get disability for arthritis with the help of a medical vocational allowance? A sizable portion of people receiving SSDI do not have a Blue Book-verified impairment. This is due to medical vocational allowances.

If you have arthritis and will be out of work for at least 12 months, you may be able to get disability These are awarded when the SSA determines that your disease is not listed in the Blue Book, but is severe enough to require benefits anyway.

If your type of arthritis is either unlisted in the book or is questionably severe, you may still qualify for social security through a medical vocational allowance.

To qualify, you must prove in your application that your arthritis is severe and debilitating enough to keep you from leading a normal life.

This means including evidence of every aspect of your impairment, from doctor’s notes to medical bills to tests, lab results, physical therapist's notes and surgery reports. You can even have your doctor fill out an RFC form, which is an official medical assessment that demonstrates your ability to function with your impairment.

What Are My Chances of Getting Disability for Arthritis?

Now that we've addressed the question, "can you get disability for arthritis," let's turn to a discussion regarding what your chances are of getting disability for arthritis.

First and foremost, by providing an ample amount of medical evidence to back up your claim that you can no longer work because of your arthritis, you may be able to increase your chances of getting disability for arthritis. 

The specific medical evidence that could help increase your chances of getting disability for arthritis include a proof of disability from your doctor, details of the medical treatment you are receiving, your current symptoms and the medications you are taking. While medical evidence is key to having a strong claim, there are a few other signs that you will be approved for disability

Around 63% of disability claim are denied initially so your chances of getting disability could increase by providing as much medical evidence to show the SSA that your arthritis is so severe that you cannot work because of it.



Find Out If You Qualify For Disability In Minutes


Next Steps to Take

If you are considering applying for Social Security benefits, you should first consult with your primary care doctor. Not only can they provide copies of the paperwork necessary to apply, but their understanding of your medical history can help inform your decision.

You should also strongly consider speaking with a Social Security disability lawyer or disability advocate for disability benefits help. Their legal knowledge can help present your case as favorably as possible when applying for Social Security benefits, which is especially useful when your chances of qualifying are unsure.

It is common for applications to be denied benefits, although you can appeal any such decision. Be sure to look out for the signs that you will be denied for disability. 

For more information, you can review the Blue Book and application requirements on the SSA’s website.

Additional Resources

Blog comments

Micki Conn (not verified)

I am 62 years old and currently receiving LTD from an employer sponsored policy. They have required me to apply for SSDI even though I have not been determined to be permanently disabled. I had lung cancer and have had my right lung removed. If I am determined to be permanently disabled they will offset my SSDI. My question is that I am also a widow of 20 years who had never remarried. I am thinking about applying for my widows benefits since I don't know if I'll be around long enough to collect it at age 66. If I take my widows benefit now can they offset that income now and also if I do receive SSDI? Thank you.

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 11:24 Permalink
gregory herron (not verified)

yes, I don't see anything on the parttme work. so if ithis is the way to do it can someone help?

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 13:21 Permalink
fred early (not verified)

hellol Deanna I been diagnosed with arthritis in both feet just had a plate and 2 srews in my toe because of a bunion caused by arthritis do I qualify for social security

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 13:41 Permalink

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