Can I Work With Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Social Security Disability for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis can be debilitating disease that may leave you unable to work. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and it has impacted your ability to participate in your normal daily activities and has also left you unable to work, you could be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.

In the event that you have a serious case of rheumatoid arthritis, you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Through the Social Security Administration , the government gives these cash installments to those who are incapable to work due to a sickness or disability for a year or more.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, which requires you earn sufficient credits and pay in enough taxes to the SSA to receive disability benefits if you meet the requirements of being fully disabled.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

An autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis can impact more than just your joints. It can also attack your different body systems. You can suffer kidney failure and require dialysis, experience lung and breathing problems, or have digestive issues.

You will require frequent visits with your rheumatologist who specializes in treating autoimmune diseases. It is not abnormal to suffer the traditional arthritic joint systems of arthritis to go along with other symptoms coinciding with the bodily systems impacted. Because it is an autoimmune disease, you can get sick easily. You can check the Blue Book listing to see how you can qualify for disability benefits with rheumatoid arthritis.

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Impact Your Ability to Work

If your rheumatoid arthritis causes you to suffer from severe symptoms, your daily life may be severely impacted. Joint damage can significantly impact your mobility and functioning ability.

You can experience malaise that will leave you unable to focus or concentrate for long periods of time. Your overall well-being as well as your mental and emotional states can significantly be impacted by your medical condition.

All these symptoms and side effects can impact your daily life as well as your working capabilities.

If you can't work because of rheumatoid arthritis, you may qualify Social Security disability benefits.

Limitations for Specific Jobs

Your ability to work can suffer significant impact from your rheumatoid arthritis. As an example, if your joints have been attacked by RA, you may not be able to stand long periods or sit long periods because of the severe pain.

You will have to reposition yourself frequently, which can impact your ability to perform many jobs.

If different body systems have been impacted, such as your kidneys, and dialysis is necessary, you will require frequent medical visits that leave you exhausted and unable to function properly, so you can’t work in a factory or a warehouse where standing for long periods is required.

Because RA can impact any joints, you may find your fingers and wrists are significantly impacted and cannot move well.

Due to limited mobility of the hands and fingers as well as the pain suffered, you may find you cannot perform fingering tasks or grasp small items, so you won’t be able to perform data entry, secretarial, or product inspection duties.

Finally, if your condition has left you unable to lift, carry, or reach, you can’t work retail, in shipping and receiving, in a distribution center, or as a first responder or in emergency services.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis a Disability?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a severe medical condition that can be disabling. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a medical guide, which is called the Blue Book, to determine if a claimant qualifies medically for disability benefits. The Blue Book has sections for different body systems and each section has listings for disabling conditions that may apply to that bodily system.

Rheumatoid arthritis is listed in Section 14.09 which is entitled Inflammatory Arthritis. You will need to provide a complete, detailed medical history that explains the severity of your rheumatoid arthritis. You must provide documented medical evidence that shows the following apply to your situation:

  • Pain or deformity in a weight-bearing joint like a hip or a knee
  • Challenges getting around that require a walker, cane, crutches, wheelchair, or assistive device
  • Pain or deformity in any joint of your upper arms that makes performing fine motor skills difficult, such as difficulty filing or writing
  • Severe malaise or fatigue
  • Any involvement of an organ, such as heart or lung conditions related to RA
  • Involuntary weight loss
  • Fevers
  • Any problems related to other body systems

There are several different medical tests that can confirm a diagnosis, and you will need to be able to provide those test reports. Some of the tests that Disability Determination Services (DDS) will be looking for in your medical records include blood antibody tests, inflammation blood tests, and imaging tests such as x-rays, MRIs, or CT scans.

DDS will give more weight to a medical specialist’s opinion rather than a primary care provider. You should establish medical care with a rheumatologist.

I Can Work, But Not Much Because of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sometimes rheumatoid arthritis limits your abilities but doesn’t completely disable you. You may be wondering what to do if you find yourself able to work a little, but not enough to work and earn a living.

To be eligible for Social Security Disability, you must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). If you earn more than a specified amount of impairment-related work expenses, you are earning SGA and not qualify for disability benefits.

As of 2020, the SGA limit or an individual who isn’t blind is $1,260 per month. This applies to both SSDI and SSI. You must prove that your disability will last for at least a year or that it could lead to your death.

So, if you are able to do a little work, but you earn less than SGA limits, you may qualify for disability benefits. You will need to talk to a disability lawyer to see if you may qualify for disability benefits while you are working for a living.

If the SSA believes that you can work enough to earn SGA, then your claim will be denied. This could have something to do with your hours worked as well.

For example, you may work 10 hours a week and earn $8 an hour and still fall under SGA, but you may work 10 or 12 hours a week and earn $30 or $40 an hour depending on your profession. Some people may be able to work very little, but still earn in excess of the SGA limits.

So, whether you can work very little and still qualify for disability benefits can vary greatly. A disability lawyer should review the specific details of your claim and your work capabilities before you file a claim so they can determine if you are going to qualify for disability benefits.

Using a Medical Vocational Allowance

If you don’t qualify through the Blue Book listing, you can still be approved using a medical vocational allowance with a residual functional capacity (RFC) form. The RFC is very detailed, explaining what you can and cannot do. It would indicate if your hand movements were too limited for you to write or perform fine movements with the hands.

The RFC will indicate if you cannot stand more than an hour, how much you can lift, if you can bend or squat, if you can reach or grasp, and how far you can walk. It will take your age, educational background, work history, and transferrable skills into consideration with your medical conditions, treatments, prognosis, symptoms, and side effects.

Through a medical vocational allowance approach, Disability Determination Services will get a more thorough look at your overall health and abilities. They will then be able to accurately determine what kind of work – or if there is any kind of work – that you are capable of doing with your rheumatoid arthritis and the severity of the condition.

What You Need to Apply for Social Security with RA

Maintaining detailed records is essential in proving your case and being approved for disability benefits. You will need to supply all your detailed medical records including test results such as x-rays, MRIs, and blood tests.

You will also need to include physician notes, information about any medications and their side effects, and any treatments you have undergone along with the results.

You should also include your doctor’s statement regarding your restrictions and any limitations, along with documentation about how your condition has impacted your life.

Get Help from a Social Security Attorney

If your rheumatoid arthritis is impacting your ability to work, you want want to seek the help of a a Social Security attorney.

Having a professional on your side to argue your case could make you more likely to receive the benefits you need, so consider contacting an attorney today.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis that is disabling, you should consult with a disability attorney before your file your claim. An attorney will review the details of your case and determine the best way for you to proceed with your claim. With the help of an attorney, you are much more likely to have your claim approved for disability benefits.

Medical documentation is essential for a successful claim. You need detailed medical records, including test results and lab work. The more supporting documentation that you can provide, the more likely you are to have a successful disability claim and be approved for monthly disability benefits.

When you retain a disability lawyer, they don’t require upfront payment. They will take the case on a contingency basis, which means that you will not have to pay anything out of pocket or upfront. Instead, your attorney will only be compensated after your claim has been won and you have recovered backpay.

To share the details with a disability attorney who represents clients in your area, complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page. Your details will be reviewed, and someone will help you determine the best way to proceed with your disability claim. Hard medical evidence is a necessity to get a claim on track, so be sure to prepare a detailed list of all your medical providers and their contact details. Complete the Free Case Evaluation today!

Additional Resources

Disability Application Tips: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Social Security Disabling Conditions
Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day