If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and it keeps you from participating in regular daily activities as well as prevents you from working, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. Any one of any age can suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that can cause limitation of joints, persistent swelling, and severe pain.
If your arthritis is severe enough to limit your abilities to perform basic work tasks, such as standing, walking, pulling, carrying, reaching, sitting, lifting, or handling, you may be eligible to receive monthly disability benefits with arthritis from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Advanced rheumatoid arthritis can impact one or more body systems because it is an autoimmune condition. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you will need to visit a rheumatologist regularly for treatment adjustments.
Is Rheumatoid Arthritis a Disability?
So, is arthritis a disability? More specifically, is rheumatoid arthritis a disability? Yes, the SSA considers rheumatoid arthritis to be a disability. You will need to provide documentation and medical evidence that your RA is severe enough to qualify for disability benefits. If you provide the SSA with all the proper documentation, such as a doctor’s diagnosis, x-rays, blood tests that shows that because of your rheumatoid arthritis you are unable to work, the SSA will consider your rheumatoid arthritis a disability.
If you have suffered rheumatoid arthritis from work and you are unable to earn substantial gainful income because of it, which as of 2020, is more than $1,260 per month, then you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
What Benefits Can I Claim With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The benefits you could obtain if you are suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis depend partly on whether the arthritis developed because of your work, i.e. it was a workplace related condition. If it had nothing to do with your job, then you would apply for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
If it was a workplace related medical condition, and it prevented you from working, then you would first apply for workers’ compensation. If you are successful in applying for workers’ compensation, you may then obtain a payment based on how long the condition was expected to last, i.e. whether it was assessed as a short term or long term disability. Workers’ compensation payments are made through your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy, which is a requirement in just about every state.
If your rheumatoid arthritis was not work related, you could apply for disability benefits from the SSA if your condition prevents you from working for at least 12 months and your symptoms match the criteria listed in the relevant section of the SSA’s Blue Book.
Disability benefits are paid through two different programs depending on your past employment record. The SSDI program is for applicants who have accumulated enough work credits through contributions paid as part of their payroll taxes. The SSI program is for applicants who haven’t enough work credits to qualify for SSDI and have a low income and few assets.
How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Physical Capacity to Work
Rheumatoid arthritis can impact multiple joints. Because of this, it can prevent you from standing or sitting for long periods of time. It can also keep from being able to reach, lift, carry, pull, or handle things.
You may require assistance for your mobility, such as the use of a walker or cane. Even with a walking device you may be limited on how long you can stand or how far you can walk. You may not be able to bend or squat, which can limit your ability to perform work functions.
If your rheumatoid arthritis affects your hands, wrists, and fingers, you may not be able to hold a pen for long period or do data input for long periods. You may find yourself unable to grasp items or do dexterous tasks, such as sorting paperwork or doing filing.
Besides being unable to lift items you may not be able to reach above your head or remove items from shelves because of your joint condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis often involves taking pain medication and immunosuppresants, which can cause dizziness, drowsiness, cause fatigue, and even cause nausea and gastrointestinal issues.
What are the Work Limitations with Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, you may be experiencing some limitations at work because of it. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are nine common daily activities that many people with arthritis report are “very difficult” or that they “cannot do.” The activities are:
- Grasp and hold small objects, such as a computer mouse.
- Reach above your head.
- Sit for about 2 hours, such as your work station.
- Lift or carry as much an object 10 pounds or less.
- Climb a flight of stairs without resting.
- Push or pull a heavy object.
- Walk a quarter of a mile.
- Stand up continuously for about 2 hours.
- Stoop, bend, or kneel.
At work, these limitations can be especially challenging, especially if you are suffering from joint pain, it could make it very difficult if you work behind a computer using your mouse and keyboard.
Your rheumatoid arthritis can make it even more challenging to do your job, especially if your job is more sedentary, it could make it very difficult to sit for extended periods of time.
The same goes for workers whose professions are more physical labor. rheumatoid arthritis can create some serious work limitations as well.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis in your spine and knees, it could create some serious limitations if your job requires you to carry boxes if you work in a warehouse or create difficulty walking for extended amounts of time if you work as a service technician.
If you are seeing work limitations because of your rheumatoid arthritis, you may want to see if you can apply for Social Security disability benefits with RA.
How Your Ability to Perform Specific Jobs is Impacted
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and it affects your spine, ankles, knees, and/or hips, you aren’t going to be able to stand long periods, so you can’t perform retail store duties, work in construction, or work in a shipping and receiving facility.
Spine and leg involvement can also keep you from driving a commercial vehicle or working as a machine operator. The involvement of almost any joints can impact your ability to work in a manufacturing and assembly position because your limited to hand and arm movements as well as the ability to stand or sit for long periods.
Rheumatoid arthritis can impact many joints including the:
If multiple joints are involved, you may not be able to perform fingering tasks such as grasping, typing, or writing. You may also require a device to help you with your mobility, such as a walker or cane.
Because of mobility limitations, you can’t operate heavy equipment or drive a tractor-trailer. Any pain medications can cause drowsiness and dizziness, which means you can’t drive or operate machinery.
Because of finger and wrist involvement, you may not be able to perform sedentary work such as data entry or operate a hospital switchboard.
When to Stop Working with Rheumatoid Arthritis
When someone is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, usually they are prescribed pain medication and recommended to do some form of physical therapy to help manage the pain from it.
Since rheumatoid arthritis affects people differently who have it, it can be difficult to determine when to decide to stop working.
The simple answer for when to stop working with rheumatoid arthritis is that if you cannot physically perform your job functions because of it.
If you believe that your rheumatoid arthritis will make it impossible for you to work for at least a year, then you may want to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Considering applying for Social Security disability benefits but not sure how much you’ll earn per month? Our Social Security Disability Calculator can help you determine how much you’ll receive from the SSA before you file for disability.
Before you stop working, it is important to get all the proper documentation in order beforehand for when you start the application process for Social Security disability benefits.
It is recommended that you consult with your doctor before starting the application process and before you stop working.
If you have exhausted all options and you can no longer perform your job functions like you could before your diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, then you may want to stop working and consider filing an application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
Applying for Disability Benefits
The Social Security disability benefit claims and approval process is detailed and complicated. In order to be approved for benefits, you need to provide as much documentation and evidence as possible. You will have to see if your symptoms and medical records match a listing in the SSA's Blue Book. The Blue Book is the list of conditions that qualify for disability.
You will be required to provide tests that confirm your diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, which will include scans such as MRIs, x-rays, and blood tests.
Your doctor’s detailed notes that indicate any limitations or restrictions are also required. Your records should detail any treatments you have undergone and how your condition responded to them.
You can start the application process online on the SSA's website. You can schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office to start the application in person as well. Because the claims process is complicated, you can benefit significantly by recruiting the help of a disability attorney or disability advocate.
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A disability lawyer could improve your odds of being approved for monthly disability benefits.
You have a lot to gain from a successful Social Security disability claim. A successful claim wouldn’t just mean consistent financial support for your ailment—it would also grant you the kind of stability that you may have been missing out on for years now.
Unfortunately, winning a claim isn’t a cakewalk, which is why you should consider consulting a Social Security disability attorney or advocate.
Your attorney will use his or her knowledge and experience to fight on your behalf and help you get the benefits you need—and you don’t even need to pay your lawyer unless you win.
A successful Social Security claim could be life-changing, so don’t wait to get an evaluation and talk to a Social Security disability attorney as soon as possible.