When you apply for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits, a caseworker first checks your claim to make sure you meet the standards for employment income (currently capped at a little more than $1,000 a month) and for a work history extensive enough for eligibility. Then your file is passed on to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination—part of the Department of Labor and Industry—which decides whether you meet the federal standards for disability.
So your case has to pass through two checkpoints—one federal, one state—before you may collect benefits. Unfortunately for many residents of Dauphin County, Juniata County, Cumberland County, and other central Pennsylvania communities, many people suffering from severe arthritis will find that their SSDI benefits are denied at this stage.
Don’t Throw in the Towel
First off, you should know that you’re in good company: most people who apply for SSDI benefits are rejected at the outset. Those people with the stamina to hang on through the rigorous Social Security appeals process often can secure the benefits they need to survive.
Let’s be honest: if you suffer from arthritis to a degree that you cannot work, you will need some source of income. The Social Security disability program offers your best chance at obtaining a basic level of support. You should recognize that SSDI does not provide for a lavish lifestyle.
You will have only a limited time to challenge a decision that your arthritis condition does not rise to the level of a disability. In order to get this decision reversed, you will have to submit additional evidence to show that your ailment truly is disabling. At a minimum, this must include imaging results and doctor’s records that, taken together, prove:
- You have a major joint deformed by degenerative joint disease.
- You are experiencing symptoms of pain and stiffness or immobility in that joint that can not be relieved enough by medication and assistive devices.
- The joint disease is expected to last at least one year.
- If a weight-bearing joint (such as a hip, knee, or ankle) is the one affected, your condition seriously impairs your mobility.
- If upper-body joints (such as shoulders, elbows, wrists, or hands and fingers) are affected, then you must be impaired in both delicate and large-scale movement (fine and gross motor skills, in medical terms).
- The nature of your joint disease would make it impossible for you to work gainfully, even in a sedentary job, in any field for which you are trained.
If you can successfully prove all these points, you have established that your case falls within the Social Security definition of a joint disease disability. The only remaining question is whether you have exceeded the maximum income limits to earn SSDI benefits, and whether you have been employed long enough and recently enough. If you fail the work requirement, you may be able to apply for cash assistance under the Supplemental Security Income program, but its payment rate is much less than SSDI provides.
This Sounds Like a Lot of Work
We’re not going to sugarcoat it: fighting a denied SSDI claim is a lot of work, and the stakes are very high. That’s why almost everyone who enters the SSDI appeals process hires an advocate to help gather the necessary paperwork, make sure it’s filed on time, and guide the appeal to a conclusion. Guess what? It works. Applicants who hire SSDI representation are more likely to ultimately qualify for benefits than applicants who pursue cases on their own.
When your arthritis SSDI claim has been denied, you can look to Schmidt Kramer’s Harrisburg law office for the guidance you need. We represent disabled workers across Pennsylvania. Turn to our legal team to handle your appeal or hearing, or just give us a chance to answer your pressing questions in a FREE consultation with a Harrisburg disability attorney. Call us today at 717-888-8888 locally or (888) 476-0807 toll-free to put us to work for you.