What Is Degenerative Joint Disease and How Can I Qualify For Disability Benefits?

If you suffer from degenerative joint disease and it is impacting your ability to work, you might be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you can provide medical documentation that supports your claim.

Degenerative joint disease is a condition that is also known as a “wear and tear” disease because it worsens over time. It’s also known as osteoarthritis, a condition where joints wear down over time causing bones to rub against each other leading to pain, stiffness and swollen joints. There is no singular cause of the condition, but it can be exacerbated by repetitive motion over time.

Qualifying with Degenerative Joint Disease

The best way to understand how your condition will be viewed by the Social Security Administration is to look at the Blue Book. The Blue Book is a comprehensive listing of medical conditions that qualify for disability benefits, including the medical documentation needed to support your claim.

Section 1.0 deals with Musculoskeletal System conditions, and in section 1.02 it outlines the criteria for any kind of joint impairments that are 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).” These limitations include one major peripheral joint, which includes either weight bearing joints (hip, knee or ankle) or upper extremity (shoulder, elbow or hand/wrist)

The most important thing is to have a complete medical report, including the doctor’s diagnosis and all imaging (CT scans, MRI or x-rays) to support the diagnosis.

Using an RFC

If you don’t meet the criteria in the Blue Book, you might be able to qualify through a residual functional capacity (RFC) analysis. The RFC is a determination of the maximum amount of work you are capable of doing given your diagnosis, age, work history and education.

Your doctor will help you to fill it out, and it will include a description of your limitations as a result of your diagnosis. The benefit of the RFC is that your condition might not meet all of the criteria of the Blue Book, but you could still be approved if your evidence is strong enough, and since you won’t be able to speak directly with the SSA while they evaluate the application. The RFC is your chance to explain how your condition prevents you from working.

Qualify for SSDI with Degenerative Joint Disease

How Does Degenerative Joint Disease Affect Ability to Work?

As a wear and tear condition, if your job requires repetitive motion then you could find yourself experiencing a great deal of pain while working. If the condition is severe, then any motion involving the affected part of the body will lead to a great deal of pain. The symptoms include pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.

Osteoarthritis is one form of a larger arthritis diagnosis, or it can be part of a larger musculoskeletal condition.

If your job requires heavy lifting, for example, then you might experience intense knee pain as a result of worn-out knee joints. A grocery store clerk might have degenerative joint disease in his wrists because of the constant movement throughout a shift.

Have Your Case Evaluated by a Lawyer

Applying for disability benefits can be a very challenging and stressful process. You have to make sure you have all of the supporting evidence while also making sure you’re meeting all of the deadlines for the application. It can be helpful to work with a disability attorney, who can help you through the process from start to finish. 

Disability attorneys may know exactly what medical documentation is needed to make your claim as strong as possible using the guidelines from the Blue Book. Though there is no guarantee that working with a disability attorney will win your case, it may greatly improve your chances of a favorable outcome.

Most disability attorneys require no money up front, and they will only require payment if they win your case. To find out how a disability attorney might be able to help you with your claim, fill out a Free Case Evaluation.

Additional Resources

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