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Bursitis and SSA Disability Benefits

Bursitis is caused when the fluid filled sacs or bursa, which are located between the tendon and the skin or bone and tendons, become inflamed. The most common areas of inflammation generally occur in larger body parts and joints including the hips, knees, and elbows. The condition can be chronic or continuous or it can be acute, occurring periodically after certain types of activities.
Bursitus of the elbow. I took this picture of ...

Common causes of this condition include trauma, overuse of the joints, gout, severe infection, and rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms can be very severe, and depending on which and how many joints are affected, it can impair a claimant’s ability to function and work. Common symptoms can include swelling of the joints, stiffness performing activities with that joint, severe pain and tenderness.

Winning SSDI or SSI for Bursitis


The Social Security Administration has two methods for determining whether a worker can get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). First the SSA will decide if their condition and corresponding systems are so severe they meet or exceed a listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments. This list, also known as the Blue Book, identifies common conditions and symptoms which the SSA acknowledges are disabling.

Next, if the claimant’s condition is not on the listing and it does not “equal” a listing, the SSA will determine if the claimant has the ability to continue to work either their current job, a previous job, or retrain for new work. This evaluation determination is done through a medical vocational allowance.

Meeting a Listing on the SSA Listing of Impairments for Bursitis


Although there is not a specific listing for bursitis it is possible to evaluate your condition to see if it meets or exceeds the listing under 1.00 Musculoskeletal System, Listing 1.02 Major dysfunction of a joint due to any cause. Under this listing you would have to prove that the condition was so severe it completely eliminated your ability to ambulate effectively, or if the condition involved one of your major peripheral joints in the upper extremities of your body, that you were unable to perform fine and gross movements effectively.

Consider, however, that the SSA would expect this limitation to be caused 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), and findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the affected joint(s).”

Additionally, if your condition was caused by severe rheumatoid arthritis it may be evaluated under the corresponding listing.

Winning benefits for SSDI or SSI through a medical vocation allowance


Winning SSDI or SSI for bursitis will be very difficult. The SSA will expect for you to be able to prove that your condition is severe and that it will last at least 12 continuous months and will not allow you to perform substantial gainful activity.

Additionally, the SSA will expect that you have seen a medical doctor and you have followed the proper treatment options: pain medications, aspiration of the bursa fluid, or cortisone injections. The more severe cases may require surgical drainage and removal of the infected bursa sac (bursectomy).

Winning through a medical vocational allowance will require great medical records which clearly state why you are unable to perform specific work activities.
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