Each year over 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with a painful condition known as rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body’s immune system attacks tissue and joints and even internal organs. The disease attacks the tissues inside joints, causing very painful swelling. Over time, the joints can become deformed and bones can decay as a result.
While there are no cures for rheumatoid arthritis, there are ways to manage the disease. Over time, though, the disease can make it nearly impossible to perform the day to day requirements of a job and so many sufferers turn to the Social Security Administration to apply for disability benefits.
Why An Awareness Day For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis can affect anyone, but it’s most common in women, people between the ages of 40-60, people who smoke and anyone who has a history of the disease in their families. If you don’t fall into one of those categories, it is even more important to understand the signs and symptoms so that you can seek treatment at the first signs of a problem.
The first signs of rheumatoid arthritis usually appear in the hands and feet, and eventually it can spread to hips, knees and shoulders. Warning signs include swelling and warmth in the joints, along with associated pain.
How Can Someone Who Has Rheumatoid Arthritis Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration has a guide to medical conditions, commonly referred to as the Blue Book, and when you submit your application for disability benefits the evaluator will compare your condition to the listings in the Blue Book.
Rheumatoid arthritis is included in section 1.02 Major Dysfunction of a Joint(s), which can be due to any cause. Under 1.02, dysfunction is characterized by “gross anatomical deformity” and “chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s).” If your rheumatoid arthritis impacts your ability to walk or use your hands, then you might qualify for disability benefits.
What If I Don’t Meet Or Match The Blue Book Listing For Rheumatoid Arthritis
The Blue Book is a comprehensive guide, but every case is different and the Social Security Administration evaluates each application on an individual basis. If your condition doesn’t meet Blue Book guidelines, you might still qualify for disability benefits under the medical-vocational allowance.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes incredible pain in the joints, and over time you may not be able to continue performing the demands of your job. In that case, your residual functional capacity (RFC) will help to determine the maximum amount of work you are capable of performing following your diagnosis. The SSA will evaluate your ability to walk, sit, stand, bend and use your hands, among other things, without pain.
Ultimately, under the medical-vocational allowance the SSA can factor in how much work you are able to perform and then they will evaluate your education, work history and experience in conjunction with your RFC to decide whether you are indeed eligible for disability benefits.
How Do I Start the Disability Application Process for Rheumatoid Arthritis
The application process for disability benefits is complicated and requires a great deal of medical documentation. The more information you provide, the easier it will be for a decision to be made. Though hiring a Social Security disability attorney won’t guarantee that your application for disability benefits will be approved, having an advocate who is familiar with the process can greatly increase your chances of approval.