The following article will give comprehensive information about Rheumatoid Arthritis and Disability, how can an individual qualify for disability benefits due to Rheumatoid Arthritis and why is it important to hire an SSD attorney to get the SSD benefits for RA.
Rheumatoid Arthritis And Disability
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory medical condition that affects small joints of the hands and feet. It is different from a condition like osteoarthritis in which joint inflammation is associated with natural wear and tear of the major and minor joint. Rheumatoid Arthritis causes inflammatory deterioration of synovial lining of the joints. The inflammation of synovium causes edema and deterioration of joint lining as well as destruction of joint cartilages. The inflammation and edema of synovium causes severe pain. Extensive deterioration of synovium and joint cartilage results in joint subluxation or dislocation. Severe deterioration of synovium and cartilage also causes joint deformity and bone on bone approximation within the joint. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system of the body damages its own cells. Apart from the small joints of the hands and feet, Rheumatoid Arthritis also affects other vital organs of the body like skin, lungs, eyes, and other blood vessels. The age of onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis is usually after the age of 40. This disease is known to occur more in females than males.
The discussion within this article will answer the question like is Rheumatoid arthritis a disabling medical condition or not, as well as can Rheumatoid Arthritis patients qualify for disability benefits.
Rheumatoid arthritis in few middle age cases causes joint impairment resulting in disability. Impairment caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis results in limitations of daily activities because of swollen joints in the hands and feet resulting in severe painful joint movement and ambulation. The disease prohibits an individual from carrying out daily activities, which are necessary for living and performing tasks at work requiring use of the hands or feet comfortably. Patient who is unable to perform his daily task at work should apply for Social Security Disability caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis.
What Are The Causes Of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The autoimmune condition follows when immune system activates certain white blood cells against normal tissue and organ. There are several types of autoimmune diseases resulting in abnormalities of respiratory system, cardiovascular system, nervous system and skeletal system. The destruction of joint synovial membrane and joint cartilage results in inflammation, edema and thinning of cartilages. The thinning of cartilages follows bone on bone joint. The inflammation in later stage spreads to surrounding soft tissue. The inflammation, of surrounding tendons and ligaments causes joint weakness and subluxation. Over the period of time the disease gets to advanced stage and is often associated with clinical signs of partial or complete joint dislocation. The medical scientist and physicians are not exactly sure what triggers the hyperactivity of abnormal immune system.
What Are Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis are:
Chronic Pain- The joint disease and pain caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis lasts over 6 months and pain becomes chronic. Pain is moderate at rest and severe with activities. Pain does responds to NSAIDs during initial phase and not during advanced stage of the disease. Pain is burning type at rest and becomes stabbing as well as penetrating during activities and following joint movement.
Joint Swelling- Joints are extremely painful and swollen. The joint examination indicates tenderness and warmth.
Joint Stiffness- Patient often complaints of early morning stiffness of the joint that shows clinical signs of inflammation and swelling. The stiffness is less severe following activities and movements of the joint.
Joint Deformity- The joints in hand and feet are deformed. The hand deformity is known as ulnar deviation when fingers are turned toward small finger. The joint deformity is caused by edema of the synovial membrane, joint fluid and subluxation of the joint.
Nodules Under Skin- The nodules under skin are located in subcutaneous tissue and known as rheumatoid nodules. Nodules are formed by spread of tissue inflammation into subcutaneous tissue. Nodules are isolated, firm circular granulation tissue, located in subcutaneous tissue.
Fever- Severe inflammation of multiple joint causes fever in most patients. The temperature varies between 1000 F to 1020 F.
Non-Specific Symptoms- Non-specific symptoms observed in patients suffering with rheumatoid arthritis are severe fatigue, weight loss, lethargy and weakness.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients Qualify For Disability Benefits?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) utilizes a manual which has a detailed list of medical conditions which are considered for disability by the office of Social Security Disability benefits. This manual is known as Blue Book. The manual has a detailed list of several medical conditions, which may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. The case presentation should include objective findings of clinical examination and lab investigations. The SSA will consider disability benefits once the case presentation includes all or minimum required criteria in detailed presentation.
Based on the Blue Book, Rheumatoid Arthritis does qualify for Social Security Disability benefits provided the claimant meets the below mentioned criteria:
SSA Criteria of Rheumatoid Arthritis Disability-
- The claimant should have at least three months worth of persistent joint pain
- The joint pain should be associated with swelling and tenderness involving several joints, which includes the hip joint, the knee joint, the shoulder joint, the ankle joints, the elbow joints, and the wrist joints.
- Additionally, there should presence of tenderness, joint inflammation, and swelling on physical examination despite adequate treatment which should be mentioned on the progress notes of the treating physician and presented to the judge.
- There should also be significant restriction of function of the joints suggesting severe joint impairment. The joint impairment should describe the severe restricted range of motion of the joints and aggravation of pain with movement.
- These finding should be seen in physician notes consistently for several weeks or months.
- The claimant should have these restrictions and limitations for a period of at least one year or more.
Abnormal Lab Studies of Rheumatoid Arthritis & Disability-
Apart from the above, the claimant should have undergone laboratory testing with identification of any one of the following abnormalities
- Antinuclear antibodies
- Elevated ESR
- Presence of Rheumatoid Factor
The Decision of Disability-
The Social Security disability benefit can be granted based on the above mentioned limitations and restrictions. The decision may not be favorable if a claimant does not meet the above requirements. The decision is often reversed if patient does meet most of the clinical findings included in the criteria via Medical Vocational Allowance.
Medical Vocational Allowance-
These allowances are made depending on the medical records of the claimant, age of the claimant, educational qualification, prior work history, and the functional capacity of the claimant after developing the disease. Patient with severe restriction of activities confirmed by detailed study of functional capacity evaluation may be considered for medical vocational allowance. Functional capacity study and clinical examination when suggests patient has significant restricted activities then patient may qualify for medical vocational allowance. The success depends on case presentation and discussion in front of the SSA administrator. Such professional presentation is often done by an experienced disability attorney.
What Role Does An Attorney Play In Settling Disability Claims For Rheumatoid Arthritis?
It has been seen that most of the claimants who apply for SSD benefits gets their claims denied initially. This is generally because most of the claimants who apply for disability have very little idea about how to present their case in front of the judge at the time of hearing. This is where an experienced SSD attorney is helpful. An SSD attorney has ample amount of experience in handling disability cases and is the best person to present the case in front of the judge in the most appropriate manner and is quite familiar with rules of Social Security Administration. The chronological presentation of case history and knowledge of criteria along with past experience of similar cases prevents confusion in the mind of SSA examiner. The appropriate and professional presentation of signs of the impairment helps to make an appropriate decision of disability. The attorney also has ample amount of knowledge as to what the judge might require of the claimant during the hearing and what is the other information that needs to be put forth in front of the judge at the time of hearing to win a disability claim. An SSD attorney gets paid only after the claimant has been granted disability benefits for RA and thus the attorney does all he or she can to get the claimant the disability benefits for RA.
How To Get Social Security Disability Benefits Due To Rheumatoid Arthritis?
If an individual is significantly impaired and is not able to work due to Rheumatoid Arthritis then the individual is entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Favorable decision depends on furnishing detailed medical records detailing the disease and the impairments along with laboratory data. In addition attorney will present and argue the information of patient’s past work history, skill in one particular area of work and now the inability to perform same work for 20 hours or more per week. The presentation includes proof of the significant impairment due to Rheumatoid Arthritis and patient being unable to find a job of his expertise and physical tolerance. It is advisable that the claimant should work in coordination with the treating physician along with an experienced SSD attorney to collect the required information and develop the case supporting your claim in front of the honorable judge at the time of hearing so that the chances of getting disability benefits is favorable to patient suffering with such devastating disease.
A claimant who is unable to work because of Rheumatoid Arthritis that has resulted in significant impairment of function should be considered as a disabled individual. The appropriate knowledge and experience is essential to present a complicated case of Rheumatoid Arthritis to a Judge of SSA. An SSD attorney gets paid only when case presentation succeeds in obtaining disability. So, it is advisable to hire an SSD attorney having expertise in handling rheumatoid arthritis cases for disability benefits.