In 1956, President Eisenhower signed into law an amendment to the Social Security Act that would allow for certain disabled individuals who were unable to work to receive financial assistance from the government. Since then, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has expanded significantly.
Not everyone who faces a medical condition is considered disabled by the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) standards. In an effort to standardize the way in which SSDI benefits are doled out, the SSA created a listing of impairments more commonly referred to as the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book contains various conditions that might prevent an individual from successfully working.
How Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits with Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If you are one of the approximately 1.5 million Americans living with rheumatoid arthritis, you are likely aware of how challenging it can be to remain employed. As the disease progresses, individuals often find themselves unable to carry out the same activities of daily living that they once were.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be found in section 14.09, Inflammatory Arthritis, of the Blue Book. There are several ways that one might be considered disabled with RA, as listed below:
A. Persistent inflammation or deformity in one or more weight-bearing joint that leaves you unable to walk without assistance, such as needing a walker or two canes.
B. One or more of your peripheral joints in each of your arms causes you to have difficulty performing fine and gross movements, such as trouble holding a pen or files.
C. Inflammation or deformity in one or more major joint with moderate involvement of two or more organs and at least two of the constitutional symptoms such as severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss.
D. Severe Ankylosing spondylitis
E. Repeated manifestations of inflammatory arthritis, with at least two of the constitutional symptoms and a limitation of activities of daily living, a limitation of social functions, or difficulty completing tasks in a timely manner.
What Medical Evidence Do I Need for My Rheumatoid Arthritis Claim?
In addition to listing the various health conditions that might qualify an individual for SSDI benefits, the Blue Book also contains information on the medical evidence and documentation required to be considered for disability benefits.
According to the Blue Book, the SSA relies on the most recent edition of the Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases published by the Arthritis Foundation for assistance on the most updated clinical features and diagnostic criteria for rheumatoid arthritis.
For your rheumatoid arthritis claim, the SSA will seek a detailed medical history including a physical examination from your rheumatologist. Your doctor should note any symptoms related to your RA, as well as observations of your ability to ambulate. As RA is a progressive disease, it is helpful if your medical record reflects your health over time.
While there is not one single blood test that confirms an RA diagnosis, those with the disease often have an elevated sedimentation rate (ESR, or sed rate) or C-reactive protein (CRP). If there is involvement of other organs, additional blood work might help to confirm that. In addition, x-rays or other imaging often provide valuable information on the progression of your RA.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Help Me with My Rheumatoid Arthritis Claim?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic and progressive disease that typically starts out mild and becomes more severe over time. Therefore, if you have applied for Social Security disability benefits in the past and were denied, you might be eligible now.
An experienced disability lawyer can be invaluable in helping you navigate the complex SSDI application process. From ensuring that you have gathered all of the necessary medical evidence to guiding you through the appeals process, working with a Social Security lawyer or disability advocate can mean the difference between earning a disability award or not.