Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability?

Rheumatoid arthritis creates havoc in your body’s ability to walk, move and grasp things. So, is rheumatoid arthritis a disability? The answer is yes,  and we will discuss in this article how you can claim your disability benefits if you have this disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects more than a 1.3million people in the United States. It is a form of inflammatory arthritis. The disease is 2.5 times more common in females than males.

According to a 2010 Swedish study, the risk of heart attack increases by 60 percent for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

So, is rheumatoid arthritis a disability? Yes, it is a disability, according to Social Security Administration. But your medical condition needs to be severe enough, to hinder your work life for at least one year to get disability benefits.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability

Let us discuss more about rheumatoid arthritis, and how to claim disability from the social security administration for this disease.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. We all know that our immune system helps protect our body from infections and disease. But when one suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, then this very immune system attacks healthy cells, tissues, and body systems causing inflammation, swelling of joints and joint damage.

Early rheumatoid arthritis first attacks small joints in your body, like the joints which attach fingers to your hands and others. But as the disease progresses, it spreads to

  • Elbows
  • Hips
  • Ankles
  • Shoulders, and
  • The cardiovascular system
  • Kidneys
  • Eyes and other body systems.

RA happens to be different than other types of arthritis because it occurs on either side of the body, not just one side.

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Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Below are some of the symptoms that people with rheumatoid arthritis are known to suffer from:

  • Joint Pain
  • Stiffness or swelling of joins mainly in the morning
  • Fatigue
  • Small lumps on the skin
  • Fever
  • Infection in mouth
  • Redness in eyes or difficulty in seeing
  • Low red blood cells
  • Weight gain
Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability

How To Diagnose And Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis can be diagnosed by a Rheumatologist or a doctor specializing in treating arthritis. The doctor does blood tests or imaging tests to diagnose arthritis. 

Almost 80 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis have an antibody known as the rheumatoid factor(RF). Imaging tests like X-ray and ultrasound also indicate whether the joints of the bones are worn out or not. 

Other indicators includes high levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, range of motion, high levels of fatigue, higher level of depressive symptoms and others.

Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors usually prescribe medicines to reduce the symptoms and prevent joint damage, but there is no cure. Sometimes gels or topical creams are also recommended to keep the symptoms in control.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability?

According to Social Security Administration(SSA), patients with Rheumatoid arthritis are considered to have a disability. But simply being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis will not help you in getting disability benefits. 

You must have severe arthritis that hinders you from working for almost 12 months. Moreover, you need to earn enough work credits in order to get disability in Rheumatoid Arthritis. These are calculated based on your age and tenure of the working period. Remember, you can earn only four credits in a year.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability

If you are a Veteran and have rheumatoid arthritis, you can get disability benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs. However, you need to demonstrate that there is a connection between your military service and rheumatoid arthritis. So, in short, you need to submit the things I am describing below.

  • Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis
  • You require a nexus that proves your military service-connected with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • An in-service event or injury

You also need to provide lay evidence to support your claim. You or your colleagues and friends can give the lay evidence, or anyone who knows you and can describe symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis seen in you and how it hinders military service.

The VA will request compensation and pension exam after you file a claim for rheumatoid arthritis. The VA will call you or send a letter to attend the exam on a specific date. 

The VA physician usually conducts this exam. 

For instance, he will check your joints affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Meanwhile, the doctor will also check your military and medical records, which you submitted earlier to support your claim.

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VA Ratings For Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • 100 % – 100 percent rating is given when you experience total incapacitation of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • 60 % – 60 percent rating is given when you experience incapacitating episodes four or more times in a year or experience severe weight loss and anemia because of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • 40 %- 40 percent rating is given when you experience incapacitating episodes three times in a year.
  • 20 % – 20 percent rating is given when you experience incapacitating episodes two or more times in a year.
Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability

Can You Get Social Security Disability For Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Yes, patients with rheumatoid arthritis are considered disabled by Social Security Administration.

If you have mild or moderate rheumatoid arthritis, you are not eligible to get disability benefits. Your condition should be severe enough which prevent you from working for at least 12 months in your organization.

The listing 14.00 called immune system disorder on the Social Security Administration Bluebook. Rheumatoid arthritis is classified under this section. Section 14.09, the section on inflammatory arthritis lists the medical criteria required to get disability benefits for rheumatoid arthritis. You need to satisfy the criteria to receive benefits. 

Moreover, you need to satisfy the work criteria too to receive benefits. You should have earned enough credits to qualify for disability benefits. The number of credits you need to earn to be eligible for disability benefits depends on the age at which you become disabled.

I am listing below a table that shows credits required based on disability age.

Disability ageCredits RequiredWorking years
31-40205
4422512
46246
50287
54328
58369
6038912
62 and above4010

So, if your age is above 62 years old, then you should have earned 40 credits in the ten years before getting disabled. Only then can you qualify for disability benefits. 

According to SSA, you get only one credit for every $1470 you earn. So you can get a maximum of 4 credits in a year. If you satisfy all the criteria discussed above, then you start earning disability benefits from Social Security Administration.

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Describe The Medical History Properly While Applying for Disability Benefits 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease. So Social Security Administration will like to see how this inflammatory arthritis has worsened your joints and other vital organs with time. 

You should have detailed medical records that include the date on which you are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and results of imaging tests like X-ray and sonography that prove the progression of the disease. You also need to show SSA regarding the treatments you have taken to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Remember, a detailed and lengthy medical history is the key to getting disability benefits from SSA. Your medical history needs to be long, and you need to describe everything with evidence so that it will help disability examiners to understand your condition and how it has affected you in your working life.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability

Your Rheumatologists Recommendation

The SSA likes to see the RFC (Residual Functional Capacity) during evaluation. The RFC form has to fill by your doctor, and he needs to describe your symptoms for inflammatory arthritis and how you have faced difficulties in your everyday life.

The opinion of your Rheumatologist plays a vital role in getting disability benefits. So work closely with your doctor to fill out the form appropriately.

If your doctor is denying to fill the form or not taking any interest while filling the RFC form, then better switch to another doctor interested in serving the RFC form.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability

Your Work History And Medical Records

Some people can work in their organization even after diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis. Others can perform sedentary work to some extent but cannot do any strenuous or physical activy in their organization.

To get Social Security disability benefits, your medical records and working history should show that you can neither do sedentary jobs nor physical or strenuous activity in your working organization.

You can use the following tips to achieve your goal.

  • Show your work records and missed days from work as evidence.
  • Your former employees should give statements regarding your symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and how it hinders you from working in the organization.
  • RFC form from your doctor 

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How To Qualify using Blue Book Of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

If you have mild or moderate symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, then Social Security Administration will not provide you disability benefits.

Rheumatoid arthritis falls under section 14.00 -Immune system disorder of the Blue Book. According to SSA, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, you need to provide documented medical evidence of one or more criteria.

#1. Constant inflammation or deformity on one or more joints in legs that cause one of the following described below.

  • Not able to walk properly
  • Not able to use both arms either for essential daily activities or for daily function in work

#2. Have inflammation or deformity in one or more joints in arms or leg and has affected two vital organs of your body with at least two symptoms described below.

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise

#3. Presence of severe ankylosing spondylitis or Spondyloarthropathy

#4. Continous arthritis symptoms along with other symptoms like weight loss, fever, and not being able to function from one of the following.

  • Social functioning like communicating with others, maintaining relationships, or interacting independently with co-employees, boss, and others 
  • Daily activities like maintaining personal hygiene, traveling in public transportation, paying bills, etc.
  • Completion of tasks related to work within time, like completion of projects within time and the ability to work with rheumatoid arthritis without taking many breaks.

You should also include the results of several tests, which will help the disability examiners of SSA to confirm your diagnosis. I am listing some of the tests below.

  • Blood antibody test
  • Imaging tests like CT scans and X-ray report
  • Inflammation blood tests

The SSA gives more weightage to the application in which doctor give their medical opinion regarding the applicant. So you need to work with your doctor to provide accurate medical information.

Your doctor should include various things, which I am listing below.

  • You and their dosage took medication
  • How often are you required to take medication
  • Any side effects of medications
  • Changes in life because of this disease
  • Any recommended physical therapy or occupational therapy and how often it is needed.
Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability

Percentage Of People Denied Initially 

The SSA receives more than ten thousand disability applications every year, and unfortunately, 70 percent of the applications are rejected every year. It may make you panic, but let me tell you, gathering all the information related to your medical background and work history and completing enough work credits is difficult. 

Most applicants don’t complete their applications correctly, which is the only reason for rejection. So you need to make sure you need to fill out the application appropriately. You should work thoroughly with the points that may have chances to deny getting disability benefits.

Suppose the application process seems to be complicated, then better work with the disability attorney of SSA. He understands the application process of SSA very well and helps you fill out the application form appropriately, and you may also expect to get positive results.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Disability Tax Credit

Fortunately, if you have a disability, you can apply for the disability tax credit. According to the CDC, 61 million Americans have some kinds of disability that significantly impact their activities of daily living. Some manage to work with their disability, while others’ conditions become severe, and they cannot continue their work life. 

But in both cases, living with a disability is quite expensive and can severely impact your quality of life. You have to bear medical costs, medications, physical or occupational therapy, home modifications, caregivers, and others, which can give you a heavy burden. So to pay these costs, the tax code of the United States allows disabled people to reduce some costs from the annual tax.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that can cost you thousands of dollars annually in health care. So, suppose you have RA symptoms and have limitations in walking, dressing, or doing any essential activity. 

If you are also not able to maintain your work-life for 12 months, you can apply for a disability tax credit. It will help you save your money. The people whose disability tax credit gets approved get money within $1600 to $35,000 to cover costs like medications and different therapies in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis A Disability

Frequently Asked Questions

#1. Is rheumatoid arthritis a long-term disability?

Any illness or injury which prevents you from working in your organization for almost 12 months is considered a long-term disability in rheumatoid arthritis. So, if rheumatoid arthritis is severe in your case and prevents you from working or hinders performing your daily tasks, you can apply for long-term disability benefits.

#2. What are the four stages of rheumatoid arthritis?

The four stages of rheumatoid arthritis are as below.
Stage 1
Stage 1 is the early stage of rheumatoid arthritis. You experience joint pain or swelling in this stage. The bones are not damaged in this stage, but there is inflammation of the synovium(joint lining) 
Stage 2
Stage 2 is the moderate stage of rheumatoid arthritis. The inflamed synovium starts damaging the cartilage of the joint.
When the cartilage starts damaging, you experience severe joint pain and lack of mobility.
Stage 3
Rheumatoid arthritis will progress towards the severe stage. In this stage, the damage extends toward the bones. There is no cushion in between the bones. So they’ll start to rub against each other. You will experience pain, swelling, less mobility, and even muscle weakness.
Stage 4
It is the end stage of rheumatoid arthritis. In this stage, the joint will not work anymore. You will experience pain and swelling and may have no mobility.

#3. What benefits can I claim for rheumatoid arthritis?

If you have severe rheumatoid arthritis and cannot work because of it for almost 12 months, you can apply for Social Security Disability benefits.
#4. What are the types of arthritis that affect the hand?
Apart from Rheumatoid arthritis, the different types of arthritis that can occur in you hand includes post-traumatic arthritis , osteoarthritis,  gout and psoriatic arthritis.

A Few Final Words

Rheumatoid arthritis is a severe disease that affects millions of people Worldwide. It is considered a disability depending on the symptoms and severity of this disease. If you are simply diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and have mild symptoms, then you cannot get disability benefits. 

Your condition needs to be severe enough to prevent you from doing any essential daily activity and prevent you from working for at least 12 months. We thank you for reading the article and hope you like the article.