Does Arthritis Qualify For Disability?

Submitted by Deanna on

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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 disability, we must first understand how disabilities are evaluated.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that can be extremely painful as the tissue surrounding the joints and adjacent tissues are the areas affected as over time, the cartilage in joints will break down, which leads to inflammation and 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 ligaments and bones resulting in stiffness and pain. Osteoarthritis happens when ligaments in your joints wear out over time. 

Is Arthritis A Disability?

Yes, arthritis is considered a disability by the Social Security Administration. If you cannot work because of your arthritis, you may qualify for disability benefits. 

Can You Get Disability Benefits 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. 

To find out an exact estimate of how much money you could receive from disability benefits for arthritis, use our Social Security benefits calculator

What Types of Arthritis Qualify For Disability Benefits? 

There are eight different types of arthritis that qualify someone to receive Social Security disability benefits: 

But, in order to qualify for disability benefits because of arthritis, you will need to show medical evidence that you meet the specific SSA Blue Book listings for the type of arthritis that you have. You must submit medical evidence like MRIs, X-rays, and other evidence that shows the limitations that are caused by your arthritis. 

If you don’t have one of those eight types of arthritis but you have arthritis that is so severe it makes it impossible for you to work, you may be able to qualify for disability benefits with an RFC. Submitting a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) with your application for disability benefits can help demonstrate to the Social Security Administration panel how bad your arthritis is and exactly how it limits your ability to work. 

For example, if you have arthritis in your fingers so severe you can’t type or pick up a phone submit X-rays or MRIs showing your arthritis and submit an RFC describing all the things that you can’t do because of your arthritis that makes a strong case that you are not able to work and need disability benefits. 

Typically, people can still qualify for Social Security disability benefits if they have debilitating arthritis in their hands, knees, shoulders, backs, hips, fingers, wrists, or other body parts commonly impacted by arthritis. 

How To Qualify For Social Security Benefits For Arthritis

1. Determine If You Medically Qualify

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 are 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 that 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.    

2. Gather Evidence 

Once you determine if you qualify for disability with arthritis, you will need to gather medical evidence to demonstrate that you do. This includes:

  • x-rays and/or MRIs,
  • blood work,
  • use of any mobility devices (walkers, canes, crutches, etc.),
  • treatment plans, 
  • documentation of arthritis progress.

You may also consider having a doctor complete a Residual Functional Capacity on your behalf. This will explain how arthritis impacts your ability to work and complete daily living tasks.

3. Apply For Disability Benefits

When you are ready, you can apply for disability benefits a few different ways. You can apply online, over the phone, or in person at an SSA office. If you apply in person, make an appointment before you go. When you apply, you will need to have the following ready:

  • adult disability checklist,
  • Social Security Card,
  • Birth certificate, 
  • W-2 forms,
  • medical evidence, 
  • any information about other sources of income (such as workers' compensation).

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 includes 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 claims are denied benefits 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. If you are denied initially, we recommend working with a disability attorney who can help you reapply and increase your chances of being approved. 

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 disability attorney 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. A disability lawyer will be able to tell you how much in disability you can get.

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. 


Additional Resources

Blog comments

Micki Conn (not verified)

I am 62 years old and

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

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

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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