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Social Security Disability Benefits for Arthritis

Can You Be Found Disabled for Arthritis?

Arthritis affects nearly 23% of US adults. According to a 2017 study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 22.7% of US adults suffered from physician-diagnosed arthritis. This amounts to nearly 54.4 million adults. Of this 22.7%, slightly less than half had work and activity-limiting symptoms.

Perhaps more concerning, there is a strong link between arthritis and diabetes, heart disease and obesity. This makes sense, because having bad joints makes managing these conditions much more difficult. It is hard to eat right and exercise when you’re constantly in pain. Not surprisingly, many people with arthritis find it very difficult to work. We would say a large majority of our clients applying for Social Security Disability benefits have some form of arthritis.

There are several ways that arthritis can qualify you for Social Security Disability Benefits, which we will explore on this page.

Types of Arthritis that Qualify for SSD

First, a distinction must be made between “degenerative arthritis” (aka osteoarthritis) and “inflammatory arthritis.”

Degenerative arthritis is what we typically think of when we are describing “wear and tear” on the joints. These conditions typically result from the gradual wearing of the cartilage and other soft tissue in your major joints (knees, shoulders, hips), though these conditions can also result from a traumatic injury as well. When evaluating this type of arthritis, the Social Security Administration will typically look at x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. While there is no “Blue Book” Listing for this type of arthritis, you may still meet a listing if your arthritis is so severe that you “equal” another listing impairment. For example, under certain cases, the Social Security Administration might evaluate degenerative arthritis under Listing 1.02, Major Dysfunction of a Joint, or 1.03, Reconstructive Surgery of a Major Weight-Bearing Joint.

Inflammatory arthritis is joint inflammation typically caused by problems with your immune system. In essence, your own immune system attacks your body tissue as if it was a harmful germ or pathogen. This can be caused by a number of different underlying conditions, such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Gout
  • Lyme disease
  • Inflammatory bowel

Unlike degenerative arthritis, there is a “Blue Book” for Inflammatory Arthritis, Listing 14.09. This is one of the more complex and technical listings. In addition to a diagnosis of some underlying illness, you need to have symptoms that significantly impair your ability to walk or use your arms and hands for work. Most commonly, a proper diagnosis requires blood and other lab tests.

If you think you have inflammatory arthritis, but you cannot seem to get the proper diagnosis, asking your family doctor to be referred to a rheumatologist is probably a good idea. The following are some of the clinics in West Michigan that specialize in Rheumatology:

West Michigan Rheumatology PLLC
1155 E. Paris Ave. SE., #100
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Rheumatology Centers of Western Michigan
6425 S. Harvey St.
Norton Shores, MI 49444

Metro Health Park East
4055 Cascade Rd. SE.
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Great Lakes Center of Rheumatology
3394 E. Jolly Road Suite C
Lansing, MI 48910

What If My Arthritis Doesn’t Meet the Disability Listings?

Sometimes, you can’t prove any of the above conditions, but you still have arthritis pain and impairment that makes you unable to work; and, even better, you have the medical evidence to document and prove it. If this is the case for you, the Social Security Administration may look at your “residual functional capacity,” or RFC. The five categories of residual functional capacity are as follows:

  1. Sedentary
  2. Light
  3. Medium
  4. Heavy
  5. Very Heavy

Which exertional category you fall into generally depends on your ability to stand and/or walk, along with the amount of weight you can lift consistently. However, your residual functional capacity also takes into account your ability to effectively perform other tasks, including:

  • Pushing or pulling (this includes operating hand and/or foot controls)
  • Climbing ramps and stairs
  • Climbing ladders, ropes and scaffolds
  • Balancing
  • Stooping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling

It will also evaluate your experience with mental, emotional, or psychological impairments (these include but are not limited to depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder) that would limit you to unskilled work. Finally, it will also look at whether you have any environmental limitations, such as being unable to work in extreme heat or cold, or not being up to work in an environment with fumes.

An Administrative Law Judge or other adjudicator will be called upon to weigh medical evidence and determine your residual functional capacity, which will in turn determine whether or not you are considered to be disabled by your arthritis. For this reason, it is vitally important to develop the medical evidence and properly worded statements from treating medical providers that you will need to support your claim.

Denied Disability for Arthritis? Don’t Give Up Hope.

The majority of people who suffer from chronic and debilitating arthritis are denied benefits at first. This often true even for those are clearly disabled by their arthritis. The sad reality is that the majority of claims have to be brought before an Administrative Law Judge at a hearing, where you will be made to testify in what many describe to be a nerve-racking process.

If your Social Security Disability claim was denied, our legal team at Nolan & Shafer, PLC wants to help. We can prepare the medical evidence in your case and help you prep for the hearing so you feel confident in your ability to answer any questions that might come up during the hearing. We are not like many nationwide and large firms in that we will assign you one attorney to work with from start to finish of your case. You won’t be shuffled around or passed off at any point! Consultations are also free until we win your case!

Contact us onlinetoday or give us call at (231) 403-0040 to learn about the legal services we offer in Muskegon and surrounding areas.

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