Can Psoriatic Arthritis Be Classified As A Disability?

What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic inflammatory type of arthritis.(1,2) It is an autoimmune disease that is integrally associated with psoriasis, another autoimmune disorder.(3) Psoriatic arthritis is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include joint pain, joint stiffness, swelling of the toes and fingers, nail deformity, and skin lesions. Psoriatic arthritis can happen as a standalone condition, but it is usually preceded by psoriasis in almost 85 percent of cases.(4,5)

In people with psoriatic arthritis, the body’s faulty immune response mistakenly attacks the healthy joints and skin, causing inflammation that triggers the symptoms like joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Over a period of time, this inflammation can affect the entire body and may also cause permanent tissue and joint damage if the condition is left untreated.(6)

Medications and lifestyle changes can help people manage their symptoms and even reduce the severity of their symptoms. However, there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis currently. If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can cause severe flare-ups of your symptoms and can even lead to long-term joint damage that starts interfering with your day to day life and your work.(7) If you find your symptoms are beginning to impact your work performance, you may be eligible to receive disability benefits from your employer or the government.

Can Psoriatic Arthritis Be Classified As A Disability?

Can Psoriatic Arthritis Be Classified As A Disability?

In people with severe psoriatic arthritis, the symptoms can become a disability if it starts affecting your ability to work. A 2016 study discovered that one out of three people diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis ended up missing work during the last year due to the severity of their symptoms. A similar estimate of people also said that their condition affected their ability to work the entire day in a full-time job.(8)

Nearly 30 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis say that their disease greatly impacted their ability to not just keep a job but to get a job in the first place.(9) To get more control over the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, you should work with your rheumatologist to come up with a treatment plan for your condition. This includes making certain adjustments in your workplace. These may include:

  • Putting arthritis-friendly grips on your pencils and pens.
  • Keeping the items you frequently use nearby so you can reach them easily.
  • Using a hands-free phone.
  • Taking frequent breaks during the day to keep moving your body.
  • Putting in place an ergonomic setup for your chair and desk.

If you find yourself unable to work because of the severity of your symptoms, there are certain disability benefits programs that you may qualify for.

Are There Any Government Disability Programs For Psoriatic Arthritis?

The US government has two programs that provide benefits to people who have disabilities. People who have developed disabilities due to psoriatic arthritis can also apply for these programs. The programs include:

  • Supplement Security Income (SSI): This is a disability benefits program that provides cash assistance to people who have disabilities and have limited income and resources. A person who qualifies for this program will receive up to $783 each month from the government. Some states in the US also offer an additional monetary amount to people who meet the qualifications laid out by the program.(10)
  • Social Security: This is a disability insurance program that is offered through the US Social Security service. It provides benefits to people with disabilities who have worked for a pre-decided amount of time. The exact requirements for people to qualify for this benefits program depends on age. The actual amount that a person receives is determined by their lifetime average earnings.(11)

How to Qualify for Disability Benefits with Psoriatic Arthritis?

There are certain medical requirements that are the same for anyone who wants to qualify for the above-mentioned benefit programs of the US government. The most important factor is, of course, to demonstrate that your condition or disability makes you incapable of sustaining a job or find a job.

You can apply for such disability benefits as soon as the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis makes it challenging or impossible for you to continue performing at your job. There is no requirement for you to have had a disability for a specific amount of time before you can apply. However, you will need to demonstrate how psoriatic arthritis prevents you from working at your job for at least 12 months.

How to Claim Disability Benefit for Psoriatic Arthritis?

The entire process of getting approval for disability benefits is a lengthy and challenging process. It usually takes over three months to get the approval, but in some cases, it can take up to two years even.

To begin the process of applying for disability, you will need to fill out an online application. You can start by calling Social Security or visiting your local Social Security office. You will be required to submit numerous documents on personal information, including:

  • Your birth certificate to show your birth date and place of birth.
  • Marriage and/or divorce documents, if any.
  • Education records
  • Names and birthdates of your children, if any.
  • Your employment and salary history for at least three years, including the current year.
  • Description of the types of jobs you have had for the last 15 years.
  • Medical records, including medications you are on and information on your doctors, diagnostic tests, and your entire treatment history.
  • Date from which your disability began to affect your capability to work.
  • Bank account details.

On the website of the Social Security Administration, you will find their checklist for online adult disability application that specifies all the documents and information you need to submit.(12) You may even be asked to submit documents to prove the claims you are making on your application. This may include your tax returns, W-2 forms, birth certificate, and other pay stubs. You also should be prepared to submit medical evidence like your doctor’s reports and test results, along with an Adult Disability Report.(13) Your doctor will help you get in place the needed documentation to apply for a disability claim.

It is essential to keep in mind, though, that a majority of people who apply for disability benefits tend to get denied at first. If this happens, you will need to begin an appeals process with the Social Security Administration and request them to review your case. Many people prefer to work with a lawyer to understand and navigate this lengthy and often confusing process of applying for disability benefits.

Other Types of Disability Benefits

There are many private insurance companies that offer policies that cover disability claims due to psoriatic arthritis. There are primarily two types of disability insurance:

  • Short-term disability insurance policies: These types of insurance policies offer benefits that range from a couple of months to a year. Some policies may also provide payments for up to two years.
  • Long-term disability insurance policies: These types of disability insurance policies offer benefit payments for a period of few years, or even until the time you no longer have a disability.

Many employers offer these policies to their staff. This is why it is a good idea to first check with your human resource department to find out if they offer this program and, if so, how you can file a claim for your psoriatic arthritis-related disability.

It is also possible to buy such a type of private disability insurance policy. Before buying, make sure you understand everything the policy offers, including how it defines disability.

Conclusion

If you are no longer able to work because of your psoriatic arthritis-related disability, it is possible to receive disability benefits from the government or even a private insurance policy. It is best to work with your medical team and doctor to get your paperwork started. The overall process of getting your disability benefit approved can be challenging and confusing process. Not to mention it may take quite a lot of time to get the application process completed. It is better to seek advice from your doctor, counselors, social worker, local hospital, or other support groups who can help you work through the application process. Many people find it easier to hire an attorney to help them through the whole process.

References:

  1. Moll, J.M.H. and Wright, V., 1973, January. Psoriatic arthritis. In Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism (Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 55-78). WB Saunders.
  2. Gladman, D.D., Antoni, C., Mease, P., Clegg, D.O. and Nash, P., 2005. Psoriatic arthritis: epidemiology, clinical features, course, and outcome. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 64(suppl 2), pp.ii14-ii17.
  3. Veale, D.J., Ritchlin, C. and FitzGerald, O., 2005. Immunopathology of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 64(suppl 2), pp.ii26-ii29.
  4. Merola, J.F., Espinoza, L.R. and Fleischmann, R., 2018. Distinguishing rheumatoid arthritis from psoriatic arthritis. RMD open, 4(2).
  5. Ritchlin, C.T., Colbert, R.A. and Gladman, D.D., 2017. Psoriatic arthritis. New England Journal of Medicine, 376(10), pp.957-970.
  6. Coates, L.C., FitzGerald, O., Helliwell, P.S. and Paul, C., 2016, December. Psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis: is all inflammation the same?. In Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism (Vol. 46, No. 3, pp. 291-304). WB Saunders.
  7. Moverley, A.R., Vinall-Collier, K.A. and Helliwell, P.S., 2015. It’s not just the joints, it’s the whole thing: qualitative analysis of patients’ experience of flare in psoriatic arthritis. Rheumatology, 54(8), pp.1448-1453.
  8. Kavanaugh, A., Helliwell, P. and Ritchlin, C.T., 2016. Psoriatic arthritis and burden of disease: patient perspectives from the population-based multinational assessment of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (MAPP) survey. Rheumatology and therapy, 3(1), pp.91-102.
  9. Kavanaugh, A., Helliwell, P. and Ritchlin, C.T., 2016. Psoriatic arthritis and burden of disease: patient perspectives from the population-based multinational assessment of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (MAPP) survey. Rheumatology and therapy, 3(1), pp.91-102.
  10. Ssa.gov. 2020. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits | SSA. [online] Available at: <https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/ssi/#:~:text=The%20Supplemental%20Security%20Income%20(SSI,who%20meet%20the%20financial%20limits.> [Accessed 22 November 2020].
  11. Ssa.gov. 2020. Disability Benefits | SSA. [online] Available at: <https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/disability/> [Accessed 22 November 2020].
  12. Ssa.gov. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.ssa.gov/hlp/radr/10/ovw001-checklist.pdf> [Accessed 22 November 2020].
  13. Ssa.gov. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-3368-bk.pdf> [Accessed 22 November 2020].

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