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Ankylosing Spondylitis and Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Benefits for Ankylosing Spondylitis

If you have a severe case of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) that keeps you from working, you may be eligible to receive monthly disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). AS is a form of inflammatory arthritis that is often diagnosed in young men, but it can impact male or female of any age. A lifelong chronic condition, there is no cure for AS.

Symptoms of AS include:

  • Fever
  • Decreased mobility
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Painful legs
  • Tendon and ligament pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inflammation of the eyes

It can be challenging to diagnose as its symptoms are not always specific to AS alone. Tests used to diagnose AS can include x-rays, physical exams, and genetic testing.

Being a challenge to diagnose, it can lead to delays in treatment and deteriorating health for those suffering from AK. Most common treatments include occupational therapy and physical therapy.

There are anti-inflammatory medications used to manage the pain and in severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be required. Regular rheumatologist visits, and exercise are often required to help make the symptoms tolerable and to reduce the severity of the pain.

Because joint disorders often keep you from working, you might be able to apply for Social Security disability benefits with Ankylosing Spondylitis. Consult with the SSA's guideto see if you qualify under the listing for AS.

The Cost of Treating Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis is a chronic disorder that will impact you for the rest of your life. According to a study conducted by the National Centers of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), AS can be an expensive condition for one to suffer from.

The study confirmed that the cost of treatment increased with the flare ups or activity of AS in the patients, with the average AS sufferer paying out as much as $20,000 to $50,000 for treatment during his or her lifetime.

Of course if the condition is so severe that multiple joint replacement procedures are needed, the cost will climb even higher. If you have health insurance, you will have copays, deductibles and coinsurance, which can run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of pocket for treating AS.

Ankylosing Spondylitis may qualify you for Social Security disability benefits.

Medical Approval for Disability Benefits

If your AS is severe enough to keep you from being able to work, you may be eligible for monthly disability benefits from the SSA. AS would be evaluated using Section 14.09C of the Blue Book, which is the medical guide that is used by the SSA to determine if you meet the criteria set forth by the SSA to receive benefits. Section 14.09C focuses on Inflammatory Arthritis.

In order to qualify, you have to be able to demonstrate one of the following:

  • Fixation of the dorsolumbar or cervical spine that is measured on physical examination at 45 degrees or more flexion from the vertical position OR
  • A fixation of the cervical spine or dorsolumbar spine that is measured at 30 degrees or more of flexion but less than 45 degrees when measured from the vertical position. There must also be the involvement of at least two body systems with a modern amount of severity.

If you can’t meet these requirements, you may be able to qualify using another section from under 14.09, Inflammatory Arthritis. You will have to provide detailed medical records, lab results, test records and documentation and confirmation from your doctors to gain medical approval.

If you have other medical conditions, you should also mention them and the symptoms that they cause you. All of your conditions combined may warrant approval for benefits using the medical approach.

Approval for Disability Using a Residual Functioning Capacity

If you don’t meet the medical requirements for disability benefits, you may still be able to get approved using a residual functional capacity (RFC). This form is to be completed by your treating physician and should clearly state any limitations or restrictions that you have because of the condition.

If you are unable to stand for more than two hours because of severe back and leg pain without having to be repositioned, your doctor needs to indicate that on your RFC.

If you suffer from chronic fatigue and fevers, you may not be able to work at a desk very long. Inflammation of the eyes can impact your ability to complete paperwork hours on end or affect your vision when it comes to reading instructions or manuals.

When pain is so severe that you have to take opioids or narcotics, they can keep you from being able to operate equipment, focus, drive, or even stay awake. That should also be noted clearly on the form.

The RFC is used in conjunction with the medical-vocational allowance, which considers your condition and symptoms, your work experience, your age, your educational level, and any transferable skills that you have.

Disability Determination Services then look to see if you can do some other kind of work if you are unable to return to your traditional job. If it is determined that you can perform no work at all, you are granted approval for monthly disability benefits.

The Application Process

Applying for Social Security disability is a detailed and complicated process. You must provide thorough medical records and adequate documentation to support your case. You may start the process online at SSA.gov, by phone at 1-800-772-1213, or in-person by visiting your nearest SSA office.

You may want to use the help of a disability attorney. If you have any specific questions regarding your AS case, you can ask in our forum.

You can experience two denials, which you can appeal, before requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge. An attorney can make sure all of your documents are in order and represent you at the hearing, helping increase your odds for benefits approval.

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