Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Considered a Disability?

Rheumatoid arthritis disability (RA) is often misleadingly linked to simply aging. On the contrary, RA is an autoimmune disease. While it’s more common in the elderly due to the natural deterioration of our bones and joints, RA affects up to two percent of the world’s population. Moreover, it doesn’t discriminate on age-it can also affect younger people’s lives.

RA is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can lead to functional disability. As with all autoimmune diseases, the condition appears when your body’s defense works against you rather than for you. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help prevent your chances of developing RA. Still, genetics play a massive part in this condition, so there’s no surefire way to prevent or stop the onset should you be unfortunate enough to be struck with the disease.

RA symptoms to look out for if you suspect you might have arthritis would be pain and swelling in your fingers and toes, but you may also experience joint pain in the knees, elbows, shoulders, ankles, wrists, thighs, and spine. This is because RA impacts the synovial fluid around the joints, which causes them to become inflamed, and may lead to deterioration of the bone, joint damage, and eventually, in severe cases, can result in permanent disfigurement.

Once diagnosed with this medical condition, it’s possible to stem the tide of RA by building muscle around the affected areas, maintaining healthy body weight, and engaging in regular low-impact exercise.

Is rheumatoid arthritis a disability?

It entirely depends on the extent that you suffer from arthritis as to whether it will be considered a work disability or not in the eyes of the SSA. For the SSA to consider RA a valid disability, then you would have to prove that the severity of your arthritis precludes you from being able to work. This includes not being able to perform sedentary occupations like working at a desk job.

In short, if you can demonstrate that you have difficulties in performing everyday tasks, which prevent you from holding down a full-time job, then the SSA will consider your medical condition a work disability.

Can you work with rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a long term disability, and although there are no cures for it, it’s not a death sentence. You cannot die from RA, but it can certainly impact your quality of life and perhaps your ability to work. Another myth is that a patient will get gradually worse with time. While this can often be true, it’s never a foregone conclusion, and actually, there may be no degeneration at all. In some cases, a patient can see their RA improve significantly over time with the right diet, exercise, and treatment.

Nobody dreams of staying home watching daytime television all day, so if you’re asking yourself if you can work with rheumatoid arthritis, no one will blame you. The answer is, of course, determined by how your condition disrupts your ability to perform routine tasks.

Therefore, should your condition be mild enough, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to work. On the contrary, you will be expected to work if the disease isn’t severe enough. This is known as substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Substantial gainful activity is defined as work that (1) involves doing significant and productive mental or physical activity and (2) is done for pay or profit.

If you suffer from severe fatigue, struggle with common tasks, or experience pain while performing routine work duties and daily activities, whether working in a physically active role or even in a sedentary position. It may not be a choice whether you can work or not. In this case, it would be inevitable that you would have to apply for Social Security Disability (SSD).

 Your eligibility for social security disability insurance

So what conditions automatically qualify you for disability[1]? Among the types of conditions automatically entitled to SSD are musculoskeletal problems and autoimmune disease, meaning conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis qualify. 

You may be eligible for SSD Rheumatoid Arthritis benefit if you fulfill the criteria laid down in the Social Security Administration blue book listing 14.0 and can provide the medical evidence required, such as medical records history, physical examination report, or laboratory reports as necessary.

Beyond proving that your condition precludes you from working in a full-time job, there are still a number of hurdles you have to face, such as your annual income, the disease duration, the length of time you’ve been employed, and the requisite amount of work credits next to your name.

How much in benefits can I receive if I qualify?

If entitled to SSDI benefits, then you may be awarded up to $40k per annum. The final sum will depend on your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) and how much social security you have paid on your income to date.

You may still be entitled to receive benefits if you are able to work a little bit. This is, of course, dependent on how much you earn. If your SGA falls below the set threshold, then you may still be able to apply.

How do you apply for disability?

First of all, consult the bluebook to determine whether your condition meets the requirements for social security disability benefits. It’s then recommended to make an appointment with your family physician to establish the medical evidence needed to submit your disability claim. You will then need to contact the SSA to apply, which can be done online, over the phone at 1-800-772-1213, or by going to your local SSA office if you prefer to speak to someone face-to-face. You may also find it beneficial to consult a disability lawyer such as Trajector to oversee your claim and take the pain out of the process.

How can Trajector help me?

Social security benefits can be a minefield to navigate, and a staggering 70% of applications submitted for social security disability benefits are initially rejected every year. Trajector boasts over 20 years of experience facilitating the disability application process, with our experts providing specialist guidance and support to our clients, so they receive what they are legally and ethically entitled to.

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