The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers Rheumatoid Arthritis, or RA, a qualifying disability, but it must be advanced RA to meet the SSA’s eligibility requirements. Proving your condition meets the SSA’s criteria can be challenging. Use the following tips to your advantage when applying for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Ensure Your Medical History is Lengthy and Detailed
RA is a progressive disease and the SSA needs to see how your illness has worsened over time. They must have a formal diagnosis, including the date of the disease’s onset, in addition to detailed medical records showing you have consistently:
- sought qualified medical care
- followed prescribed treatments.
Detailed medical records are the key to approval for disability benefits and a lengthy medical history ensures the SSA has the proof necessary to evaluate your claim. Details records allow the disability examiners to understand the full extent of your RA symptoms and how your symptoms affect your ability to perform everyday job functions.
Work Closely with Your Rheumatologist to Confirm Work Limitations
Although the SSA has a standard disability listing under which RA is reviewed, they will likely need to see a residual functional capacity (RFC) evaluation from your doctor as well. This report must detail your symptoms and the limitations they place on your everyday abilities.
The opinion of a rheumatologist holds the most weight, though another doctor considered an expert in RA is also appropriate. Work closely with your doctor to accurately reflect your everyday limitations and remember that your doctor works for you.
If your current physician is not willing to work with you in the way you need, find another specialist to provide:
- ongoing treatment,
- the kind of support required when applying for SSD benefits.
Clearly Establish Your Work Limitations through Medical and Work History Records
Some people with RA can continue to work for many years following their diagnosis. Even after workers are unable to perform more strenuous and physical job duties, many can still do sedentary work, at least for a time.
To be approved for SSD, you must ensure your medical records and your work history show you are no longer able to keep a physical or even sedentary job. Be sure to document specific job duties and the symptoms that now prevent you from completing those duties. Use the following to achieve your goal:
- answers in the disability application,
- work records, including performance evaluations and attendance documents,
- statements from former employers,
- and reports completed by your doctor.
Hire a Lawyer to Assist throughout the Application and Review Processes
Although rheumatoid arthritis is a qualified disability in its advanced stages, you may need help to prove your disabled status to the SSA. If you are unable to precisely meet the listing for Inflammatory Arthritis as it appears in Section 14.09 of the SSA's Blue Book, you will need to qualify for benefits through an RFC analysis instead.
A Social Security lawyer or disability advocate familiar with how the SSA handles RA claims can help you:
- prepare your application,
- collect the necessary evidence for supporting your claim for benefits,
- understand communications you receive from the Social Security Administration.
An attorney can also help in a number of other ways throughout the application and review processes, including handling your appeal, if you are initially denied benefits.