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Arthritis and Social Security Disability Benefits

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If you have arthritis and your arthritis condition is so severe you are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months and you meet the nonmedical qualifications of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) you may be considered disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

To qualify for Supplemental Security Income  (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) disability benefits your condition must either meet a listing on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments (which is a listing of all the major conditions and diseases the Social Security Administration considers automatically disabling) or it must be so severe that it does not allow you to work or perform substantial gainful activity (proven through the medical vocational allowance process).

Meeting a listing on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments


The Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments describes the degree of severity that the Social Security Administration presumes would prevent you from performing substantial gainful activity. If your condition is on the listing this may not be sufficient to win Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance. You condition must “meet or exceed” the listing, which means your conditions and symptoms must be as severe as the symptoms listed by the Social Security Administration.

Arthritis is generally evaluated under 1.00 Musculoskeletal System, Section 1.02 Major Dysfunction of a Joint due to any cause. The exception is for inflammatory arthritis which is evaluated under Section 14.09. The listing is divided into part A and part B and you will have to meet one or the other to be considered disabled.

Both parts A and B include “gross anatomical deformity (e.g., subluxation (joint slipping out of alignment), contracture, bony or fibrous ankylosis (joint lacking movement and instability) and chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s), and findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the affected joint(s).”

Part 1.02A

Under Part A the SSA will determine whether your condition involves a major weight bearing joint such as your ankle, knee or hip and whether this limits your ability to ambulate effectively. Ambulating effectively is defined as the ability to sustain a “reasonable walking pace over sufficient distance.” This could be impaired if the claimant has to use two crutches, a walker or two canes or if they could not walk a block, use public transportation, climb steps using a hand railing at a reasonable pace or complete daily activities (shopping, banking, etc.).

Part 1.02B

Under Part B the SSA will determine whether your condition involves one major peripheral joint in each upper extremity such as your shoulder, elbow, or wrist-hand and does not allow you to perform fine and gross movements effectively. The SSA will evaluate your ability to grasp, push, pull, reach and finger objects. Additionally they will determine if you can perform daily activities such as feeding yourself, sorting papers, reaching above waist level and performing personal hygiene functions.

What medical evidence do I need to prove I am disabled according to the Social Security Administration?


How do you prove you are disabled by arthritis and qualify for either Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income? You should be under the care of a medical doctor. MRIs, CAT scans, X-rays, laboratory tests, blood tests and range of motion tests should be available for review by the Social Security Administration. You also must be following your doctor’s current prescribed treatment plan.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer


If your condition does not meet or exceed the listing described above, but you do not believe you have the residual capacity to work, contact a disability lawyer. They can review your Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income case and determine if you have enough medical evidence to win benefits through a medical vocational allowance.
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