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Your Arthritis Type May Determine Whether You Collect SSDI Benefits

Posted D. Joseph Chapman on Feb 16, 2014 in Social Security Disability

Arthritis is a chronic joint and bone condition characterized by joint inflammation, distortion of the bones in the joint, stiffness, and pain that ranges from nagging discomfort to agonizing acute pain.

Right now, estimates say about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with some type of arthritis, and that number is expected to rise as our population ages. Despite this, it’s a misconception to think of arthritis as a disease of the very old; about two-thirds of all arthritis patients are under age 65.

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, with about 21 million Americans facing some limitations on their working ability due to arthritis.

We talk about arthritis as if it were one disease, but actually over 100 different diseases and conditions are included under the arthritis label. Some of those include disorders such as fibromyalgia and lupus that attack multiple body systems. Today, we’ll look at four common types of arthritis that often give rise to disability claims.

Filing an SSDI Claim for Arthritis

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are available to people with a strong work history who find themselves unable to work for at least a year. The Social Security Administration has strict rules in place to judge whether an arthritis patient is truly disabled by the disease; those rules are so limiting that only about 30 percent of people who apply for SSDI are granted immediate benefits.

If you are applying for SSDI benefits, your chance of being approved will depend on your diagnosis and the severity of your particular case. The most common forms of arthritis that may spur Pennsylvania residents to apply for disability benefits include:

  • Osteoarthritis. This is the most common form of arthritis; it is characterized by a breakdown of cartilage in the affected joints. As cartilage becomes less elastic, connective tissue can be stretched and bones may rub against each other. Aging and injuries seem to be trigger mechanisms that make developing osteoarthritis more likely.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. This is a disorder of the immune system: your body attacks the cells that line the joints (called the synovial membrane or synovium), causing inflammation and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis may also progress from the joints to affect other organs and systems, such as the heart, eyes, skin, or nerves. Typically, rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease that worsens over time.
  • Infectious arthritis. An infection that travels through the blood can settle into the joint to trigger a form of arthritis. The inflammation associated with infectious arthritis is due to bacteria, viruses, or fungi that attack the joint’s synovial fluid and tissues. Most cases of infectious arthritis involve people who already have some other form of joint disease or damage.
  • Gout. Gouty arthritis is caused by the buildup of tiny crystals within the joints; the big toe is often the first joint affected. Gout usually proceeds by intensely painful flare-ups followed by weeks or months of remission. Drug treatment and diet limitations can control most cases of gout, and the episodic nature of flare-ups means that gout rarely is disabling for a year or more as SSDI rules require.

Establishing Your SSDI Claim Based on Arthritis

One key to a successful disability application for arthritis in Pennsylvania is thorough documentation of the limits the disease places on you. Medical records—including imaging test results and notes from your doctor or rheumatologist—will be crucial. Your doctor’s submission should not only specify your diagnosis but also describe how your condition limits your ability to work and carry our basic activities of daily life.

At the Harrisburg office of Schmidt Kramer, our Social Security disability lawyers regularly work with new disability applicants who are suffering from arthritis. During our two and a half decades in practice, we have learned effective techniques for winning disability benefits for clients throughout Pennsylvania. To learn how we can help you, schedule a free, confidential case review by calling us at 717-888-8888 or 888-476-0807 toll-free.