Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Qualify as a Disability?

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Social Security Disability |

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune condition that can severely affect your daily life. Managing your physical, emotional, and financial burdens can be overwhelming if you’re suffering from RA.

One pressing question that our clients often ask is whether rheumatoid arthritis qualifies for Social Security disability benefits. In this article, we’ll explore the criteria for disability status, why RA can qualify, and what you need to do to strengthen your case.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is more than just joint pain. It’s an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, primarily affecting joints but potentially organs as well. Symptoms often include the following:

  • Chronic joint pain and swelling
  • Stiffness, especially in the mornings or after periods of inactivity
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and weight loss

RA can lead to joint deformities and loss of function, making everyday activities challenging or impossible.

Does rheumatoid arthritis qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes rheumatoid arthritis as a potentially disabling condition. To qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), claimants must meet specific criteria outlined in the SSA’s Blue Book.

RA can qualify as a disability due to its unpredictable nature and the profound impact it can have on your physical and mental health. The chronic pain, fatigue, and joint damage often associated with RA can make employment impossible. Furthermore, RA can affect multiple body systems, increasing its impact on your overall health and functionality.

For you to qualify for Social Security benefits, your RA must severely limit your ability to perform basic work activities. The SSA will consider the following factors when evaluating your claim:

  • Medical evidence: You will need thorough medical records, including a diagnosis from a rheumatologist, lab tests (such as positive rheumatoid factor or anti-CCP antibodies), imaging results showing joint damage, and documentation of symptoms and treatments.
  • Functional limitations: The SSA will evaluate how RA affects your ability to perform daily tasks and work-related activities. This includes your ability to stand, walk, lift, carry, and perform fine motor tasks, such as writing, buttoning a shirt, or picking up small objects. The SSA will also look for evidence of joint deformities or damage and limitations in mobility or manual dexterity.
  • Duration and severity: RA must be severe enough to prevent substantial gainful activity (SGA) for at least 12 months. This means that you need to demonstrate that your symptoms are so persistent and debilitating that you cannot work, even with treatment.

How to strengthen your claim for Social Security disability benefits

Consider the following steps to increase the chances of your disability claim being approved:

  • Ensure your medical documentation is thorough. Schedule regular visits with your rheumatologist, who should take detailed notes on your symptoms, treatments, and responses to treatment.
  • Request functional capacity evaluations from your healthcare providers. These assessments can objectively measure your physical limitations and how they affect your ability to work.
  • Show that you are following prescribed treatments and medications. Consistency in treatment and documenting its effectiveness or lack thereof can support your claim.
  • Keep a detailed diary of how RA affects your daily life. Note the difficulties you face in performing routine activities, the frequency and severity of flare-ups, and how these impact your overall well-being.
  • Seek legal advice. A law firm specializing in Social Security disability claims can help navigate the complex application process, gather essential evidence, and represent you in appeals if necessary.

If you or a loved one is battling RA and considering applying for disability benefits, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced Social Security disability attorneys in Richmond, Virginia. Contact us today for a consultation and let us help you get on the path to obtaining the support you need.

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