Osteoarthritis is a painful condition caused by damage to and loss of cartilage on major load bearing joints; such as the spine, knees, ankles, hands, and fingers. In some cases, the condition is caused by age (primary osteoarthritis) and use. In other cases, it is a symptom of an injury or a different disease or condition such as gout (secondary osteoarthritis).
As one of the leading causes of disability in America, osteoarthritis has a listing in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. This essentially means that there are objective standards that SSA adjudicators use to determine whether a claimant’s osteoarthritis is severe enough for the person to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.
Because osteoarthritis is a listed condition, a qualified Social Security disability attorney can generally look at your claim and give you an accurate estimate regarding whether it is likely to be accepted initially or if you are likely to need to go through the appeals process. Having a Social Security Disability lawyer help you assemble your claim can often make the difference between an approval and a denial.
Osteoarthritis can affect many different parts of the body. Depending on where your condition strikes and how severe it is, you may find yourself unable to perform different kinds of work.
Osteoarthritis and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work
Physical work involves activities like lifting, pushing, pulling, bending, walking, and standing. If you have osteoarthritis in your knees, spine, or ankles; it can have a great deal of impact on your ability to stand for long periods of time or even walk. If you have osteoarthritis in your wrists, hands or fingers; it can cause difficulty with lifting or grasping. Osteoarthritis anywhere can limit your ability to push or pull.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, your medical records will need to demonstrate that your condition causes it to be impossible for you to perform sustained physical activity of the type needed for physical work (i.e., you can’t work an 8 hour day or a 40 hour week). Because of this, your file should go beyond stating that your condition causes you pain and list specific restrictions regarding your ability to lift, walk, stand, bend, and perform other physical actions.
The specific requirements for you to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits vary a bit depending on what part or parts of your body are affected by osteoarthritis. A Social Security Disability lawyer will be thoroughly familiar with all of the requirements and will be able to advise you regarding the best way to go about your Social Security Disability claim.
Osteoarthritis and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work
Sedentary work typically involves a high degree of manual dexterity. This is especially true of unskilled sedentary work. Some osteoarthritis sufferers may be deemed able to perform sedentary work if they have special training that allows them to perform unphysical activity (such as management positions), and that can be performed without having to sit or stand for long periods of time.
However, most people with osteoarthritis will have little difficulty demonstrating that they are unable to perform sedentary work. This is especially true if arthritis affects your wrists, hands, or fingers, and these are the joints used most in the tasks performed by sedentary workers (typing, filing, etc.).
As with physical labor activities, it is important that your medical records show which kinds of sedentary tasks you are incapable of performing due to your osteoarthritis rather than simply stating that you have pain. Pain is difficult to objectively quantify and does not generally qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits.