Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it is when the cartilage of your bones wears down – sometimes referred to as bone on bone. The wearing down of cartilage is a natural process in most people, with arthritis being one of the most common health conditions that people face as they age. People with this condition will experience stiffness in their joints, swelling, muscle weakness, and range of motion difficulties. This can occur in any joint, but often occurs in the hands, wrist, hips, knees, and the spine. Any part of the body that sees regular use is vulnerable to developing arthritis, and it often happens to people who suffer injuries, particularly athletes and those with repetitive motion injuries.
For people with arthritis, finding and maintaining work can be quite difficult. The pain and inflammation of the joints can make it difficult to perform manual labor, and even typing can bring about tremendous pain. Many people with arthritis wonder if they can qualify for disability, especially when they have difficulty finding work that accommodates their condition. The good news is that they can qualify for disability by satisfying certain conditions, which this article will outline.
How Arthritis Can be Considered a Disability
The Social Security Administration does consider arthritis as a disability when it reaches a certain debilitating stage. An individual sufferer must have arthritis that is so severe that they have been unable to work for at least twelve months, and can show that they cannot meet the work requirements that would be considered reasonable.
There are multiple forms of arthritis that can affect the body, and certain body parts that are more prone to the disease, which can make different tasks difficult if not impossible. The Social Security Administration takes these on a case by case basis, with the possibility of proposing that you can find other work. But at the same time, it may be the case that your arthritis is at such a state that the SSA would have no choice but to consider you disabled.
Arthritis can be found in multiple joints, and the SSA evaluates these conditions in different ways. The first thing that the SSA will do is consider whether you suffer from spine problems or major joint problems. Joint dysfunctions such as misalignment, shortening of the joint, or chronic pain, can lead to an automatic approval of your disability claim. Another situation that can lead to a successful claim is if you can prove that you have undergone surgery for a weight bearing joint like your hip or knee, thus making it difficult to walk. Additionally, if you have arthritis in the spine or inflammatory arthritis then your claim will likely be approved.
Even if you do not meet these criteria, there is still a chance that you can be approved for disability. You will have to demonstrate that your arthritis is limiting your functionality in a significant way, and that the physical demands of most work situations are too difficult to complete. This can be things like walking, standing, pushing, pulling, lifting, grabbing items, bending, or stooping.
Joint Dysfunction and Your Disability Claim
When you have documented arthritis occurring in the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, wrists, or hands, then you can meet the listing for an abnormality of a major joint. There are a few things you will need to demonstrate in order to get this designation:
- Medical imaging like an MRI
- Show a medical history of joint space narrowing or the destruction of bones
- Show a medical history of pain, stiffness, and/or a loss of motion
- Use of a walker, cane, crutches, wheelchair, or scooter
- Show that you cannot use one hand and that you need the other to operate a one-handed wheelchair, cane, crutch, or other device
- Show that you cannot use either hand for work or bodily support
Arthritis in Your Back and Your Disability Claim
Osteoarthritis commonly occurs in the facet joints between the vertebrae of the spine, but you will have to meet certain conditions to qualify for disability. A diagnosis of osteoarthritis in the spine must be made, as well as
- compression in a spinal nerve root that limits the motion of your spine, limiting your range of motion and creating difficulties walking
- A narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower lumbar area, affecting the nerve roots
As we have seen, you can qualify for disability with a confirmed diagnosis of arthritis, with many of the common symptoms leading to successful claims. Ideally, you will have a good working relationship with your doctor, a proper treatment plan to improve your health and quality of life, and an experienced disability attorney who can represent your interests before the disability judge.