If you live in Pennsylvania, the odds of knowing someone impacted by arthritis are high. Nearly 30% of adults in Pennsylvania are living with arthritis, and of those individuals, close to 40% have work limitations as a result of their illness. It’s estimated that nearly $684 million is lost each year in PA as a direct result of work days lost due to arthritis.
While those numbers are grim, there is good news. There are many resources available to Pennsylvania residents impacted by arthritis. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has an established program that offers financial assistance to individuals who are too ill to work as a result of arthritis. The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is available to those with more advanced arthritis cases.
Rheumatologists in Pennsylvania
Because arthritis is such a common ailment, many people think that it is relatively easy to treat. However, what most people don’t realize is that arthritis is a term that encompasses over 100 different illnesses of the joints and musculoskeletal systems. There is a wide range of severity when it comes to arthritis. While many are impacted by minor aches and pains associated with osteoarthritis, others are completely debilitated by severe rheumatoid arthritis.
While a primary care doctor can manage the symptoms associated with a mild case of arthritis, it is best to work with a medical specialist if you have advanced arthritis or if your illness is complicated by other comorbidities. Many people with arthritis are cared for by a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a physician expert who is specially trained in diseases related to joints, musculoskeletal systems, or the autoimmune system.
A rheumatologist will follow your disease process, adapting the treatment plan as needed. In addition to performing necessary medical tests to track your arthritis, it is possible that he or she will also prescribe medications or other therapy regimens.
In addition to caring for your physical wellbeing, your rheumatologist will also play a critical role in helping you obtain the disability benefits you are seeking. Once you’ve decided to apply for SSDI benefits, you will need to provide a substantial amount of medical evidence to support your claim. The SSA will look to your rheumatologist for much of this information.
If you suffer from arthritis and are not currently working with a rheumatologist, it could be helpful to contact one of the following practices to become an established patient.
Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine
South Pavilion, 1st Floor
3400 Civic Center Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19104
3601 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
PennMedicine – Lancaster General Health
Arthritis & Rheumatology
2100 Harrisburg Pike
Lancaster, PA 17601
Arthritis Support Groups in Pennsylvania
Arthritis is a chronic and progressive illness that often worsens over time. For individuals with more advanced cases of arthritis, finding a support system can be very helpful in managing this chronic illness.
Arthritis support groups come in various forms. From online groups to in-person meetings, there are a variety of ways to connect with others who are going through a shared experience. Evidence has shown that arthritis support groups can provide numerous benefits, from offering tips on how to reduce symptoms to helping with the emotional weight that often comes along with the disease. Individuals who attend support groups have lower incidences of depression and anxiety.
The Arthritis Foundation is an invaluable resource. In addition to offering various tools and resources for those living with arthritis, their local chapters provide help at a very personalized level. For more information on arthritis resources available for those living in Pennsylvania, you can contact the local Arthritis Foundation office as follows:
365 Health Services, LLC - Philadelphia
601 Walnut Street, 718
Philadelphia, PA 19106-3323
Eastern Pennsylvania Leigh Valley Office
629 N 13th Street
Allentown, PA 18102-2112
Western Pennsylvania Office
790 Holiday Drive
Greentree, PA 15220
Applying for Social Security Disability for Arthritis in Pennsylvania
Individuals who are too ill to work as a result of arthritis may apply for Social Security disability benefits. Disability benefits are not meant for individuals who have a resolvable condition. Rather, they are intended for those who are permanently disabled. Therefore, if you have had a knee replacement or a hip replacement due to arthritis, it is unlikely that you will be approved for benefits unless there are severe complications. In fact, your rheumatologist will need to confirm that the symptoms from your arthritis that are keeping you out of work are expected to continue or worsen over the next year.
Once you’ve determined that you will indeed be disabled for at least a year, you will want to review the Blue Book, preferably with your rheumatologist. The Blue Book is the medical guide used by the SSA to determine which conditions are severe enough to warrant disability payments. It also lists the medical tests and symptoms that must accompany any given illness. A couple of sections of the Blue Book address arthritis and its related conditions. Section 1.00 addresses disorders of the musculoskeletal system and section 14.09 addresses inflammatory arthritis, which includes rheumatoid arthritis.
Some individuals are entirely disabled, and yet they may not meet a listing in the Blue Book. These individuals will need to seek a medical-vocational allowance. After determining your residual functional capacity (RFC), the SSA will decide what kind of work, if any, you can do given your current limitations.
If you feel ready to apply for Social Security disability benefits, you have a few options. Applying online is the most straightforward way to complete an application. However, some applicants prefer to visit a Social Security office in person. Listed below are three offices that might be of service to you.
Philadelphia Social Security Office 19104
4240 Market Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Pittsburgh Social Security Office 15222
921 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222
Lancaster Social Security Office 17601
1809 Olde Homestead Ln
Lancaster, PA 17601
Can a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help Me for My Arthritis in Pennsylvania?
The Bureau of Disability Determination(BDD) is the state agency that is responsible for assisting the SSA in determining disability eligibility. On average, the BDD processes close to 150,000 disability applications a year in Pennsylvania alone. As such, not all candidates are awarded benefits, and many have to wait quite some time to have their application reviewed.
One of the steps that can be taken to improve your odds of approval is to hire an experienced disability lawyer. By utilizing a lawyer, you will ensure that your application is complete and that all of the necessary medical documentation accompanies your chart. Your lawyer can talk to the SSA and your doctors on your behalf, ensuring that you have everything you need right from the start, thus improving your chances of approval.