Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, causes pain and stiffness in the joints for many people as they get older, but few people qualify for disability on account of arthritic pain and stiffness. Social Security has several “impairment listings” under which you may be evaluated: mainly the listings for back problems and joint problems. If you meet the requirements of one of these impairment listings, you will automatically be approved for benefits.
- Qualifying for Disability Under the Listing for Back Problems
It is fairly common for osteoarthritis to occur in the vertebrae of the spine, but osteoarthritis in the spine qualifies for disability benefits only under certain conditions. To meet the requirements of the listing for spinal disorders, you must have a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in your spine and one of the following:
- Compression of your spinal nerve root that limits the motion of your spine.
- Narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar region that makes it extremely difficult to walk.
- Inflammation of the arachnoid membrane surrounding the nerves of the spinal cord that requires you to change position or posture more than once every couple of hours.
- Qualifying for Disability Under the Listing for Joint Dysfunction
If you have osteoarthritis but don’t meet the listing for having a disorder of the spine, you may meet the listing for having a major dysfunction of a joint. In order to meet this listing, you must have an obvious deformity in a joint: medical imaging (such as an MRI) must show joint space narrowing, ankylosis (when your joints fuse), or the destruction of bone. You must also have a history of joint pain and stiffness and a loss of motion in the joint. In addition, the dysfunction must exist in:
- one hip, knee, or ankle joint, making it extremely difficult to walk. (For example, you can’t walk without a walker, two crutches or two canes, you can’t climb a few stairs at a reasonable pace while using a handrail, or you can’t get to work or the grocery store without another person helping you.) Or
- one shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand in each arm, making it extremely difficult to use your hands effectively. (For example, you need someone else’s help to complete activities like preparing a meal, feeding yourself, taking care of personal hygiene, or sorting and handling papers or files.)
If in fact you or someone you care for are struggling with arthritis to the point where your/their ability to work has been compromised, contact Ellis & Associates at 1-800-Mr. Ellis for advice as to whether Social Security disability benefits may be an appropriate resource to pursue.