If you have osteoarthritis but you don’t meet the criteria under any of the listings, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at your “residual functional capacity,” or “RFC.” Your RFC assessment is used by the SSA to determine what kind of work you are still capable of doing despite the limitations from your arthritis.
Lower extremity arthritis: If your arthritis affects your legs or your spine, you will probably be limited in walking on uneven surfaces, climbing, or squatting. In this case, your RFC assessment may limit you to no more than sedentary work. Sedentary work is mostly sit-down work — work where you don’t need to lift more than ten pounds at a time and the work is done mostly seated. However, up to two hours a day of walking or standing may be required for sedentary work, so if you have severe enough trouble with walking because of your arthritis, you may not be able to perform even sedentary work.
Upper extremity arthritis: If you have osteoarthritis in your shoulders, arms, or hands, your RFC assessment may limit the work you can do that involves lifting, reaching, typing, writing, or grabbing. This would make it difficult to do many jobs, even sedentary jobs. If you can’t do even sedentary work, the SSA should find you disabled.
If your RFC assessment is for medium, light, or sedentary work, the SSA then takes your RFC and compares the level of work it allows you to do (for example, sedentary work) with your prior job skills and education to see if there are any jobs you know how to do, or could easily learn to do, at that work level. If you are older than 50 or 55, the SSA is less likely to expect you to learn to do a new job, depending on your RFC and education level.
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.