Ankylosing Spondylitis and Social Security Disability

Also known by several other names, including rheumatoid spondylitis and Marie-Stumpells spondylitis, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a debilitating autoimmune disorder that causes inflammatory arthritis in the spine, but which can also result in serious complications in multiple body systems.

The disorder can affect organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys and eyes as well, and while the most common symptoms include inflammation and pain in the spine and the joints, spinal fusion and joint fixation can also result. Severely reduced mobility is one of the most debilitating effects of the disease and can make it impossible to perform normal job duties and may prevent employment altogether, making you eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Medically Qualifying with Ankylosing Spondylitis

AS that is caught early and properly treated can often be manageable, preventing joint fixation and spinal fusion; however, not all cases respond to treatment, and even when the condition does respond well to available medications, physical therapy, and other management methods, the pain, stiffness, inflammation, and complications seen with the disease can still make it impossible to work or to earn a gainful living.

The SSA recognizes Ankylosing Spondylitis as disabling. To qualify, you must meet the listing in the Inflammatory Arthritis section of the Blue Book, which is a manual of disabling conditions used by the SSA in reviewing claims for SSD benefits.

Inflammatory Arthritis appears in Section 14.09, and Ankylosing Spondylitis is specifically addressed in Subsection 14.09C . To meet this listing, your medical records must show you suffer from:

  • Fixation of the spine that severely affects movement
  • OR

  • Fixation of the spine that significantly impacts your ability to move AND moderate to severe involvement of two other body systems or organs

Even if you’re not able to exactly match the listing for AS, you can still receive benefits in one of two ways:

  • By closely matching the general listing for inflammatory arthritis
  • OR

  • By showing you are disabled despite not meeting or matching a listing in the Blue Book.

To qualify without meeting or matching a listing, the SSA must review your residual functional capacity (RFC) and look at your activities of daily living (ADLs). They will evaluate the combined effects of all your symptoms and complications during this process.

If they determine you’re so limited by the condition that you cannot conceivably earn a gainful living in any job for which you would otherwise be qualified, you will be granted SSD benefits under a medical vocational allowance.

Getting Help with Your AS Claim

Collecting the required evidence and navigating the SSD application and review processes can be challenging. A Social Security advocate or disability attorney can help, and their assistance can be invaluable if you need to appeal a denial.

You can submit an application online at any time or schedule an appointment to apply at your local SSA office by calling 1-800-772-1213. Either way, ensure you thoroughly complete the application and that you provide the SSA with extensive medical records to back up your claim for benefits.