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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Social Security Disability benefits

If you have severe rheumatoid arthritis and your 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 SSI or SSDI disability benefits your condition must either meet a listing or it must be so severe that it does not allow you to work or perform substantial gainful activity.

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


Severe rheumatoid arthritis may meet several listings found under the musculoskeletal body system and has several specific medical listings. To meet a listing you must have a “major dysfunction of the joints, involving an anatomical deformity, chronic joint pain, and stiffness that results in limited mobility.”

To meet this listing a claimant must have the following limited mobility which can cause:

The Social Security Administration would expect that you would be under the consistent care of a medical doctor and you would be following their prescribed medical treatment plan. The Social Security Administration would review your medical records (X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, limited range of motions tests, sensory tests, and laboratory findings) to determine the severity of your condition and whether or not it meets a listing.

My Condition does not meet or exceed a listing on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments


What if you do not meet a listing? The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate your condition and see how it affects your ability to work. To prove you are disabled and qualify for either Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance you will need to have medical documentation which provides evidence of the functional limitations of your condition and specific tasks that you are unable to perform given your rheumatoid arthritis.

For example, do you have difficulty doing any of the following?

The SSA will also consider a claimant’s age, education, work experience and medical condition to determine if the claimant can retrain for other work or work any past jobs. The SSA will also use what they call their medical vocational rules to determine a claimant’s abilities to work other jobs.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer


The listing for rheumatoid arthritis seems especially confusing for many claimants. If you need help determining exactly what medical evidence you need to meet a listing a disability lawyer can review your Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income claim and explain how the SSA makes their disability decision.

If your rheumatoid arthritis condition does not meet a listing it may be even more difficult to prove that you cannot work, without the assistance of a disability lawyer. Many claimants will be denied Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits because the Social Security Administration will claim they can retrain for new work. This will be especially true for younger claimants. Talk to a disability attorney for more information.
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