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Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis and Disability Benefits

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects a significant portion of the American population, with millions diagnosed every year. This chronic inflammatory disorder not only causes pain and joint damage but also severely impacts daily life, leading to disability for many. Recent statistics show a rising trend in the number of Americans who are unable to work due to the debilitating effects of RA.

If you or a loved one is looking to apply for disability benefits with rheumatoid arthritis, then this guide might be able to help you.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a condition that goes far beyond the occasional joint pain. It’s a chronic autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s defense system, the immune system, mistakenly attacks its own tissues. This attack primarily targets the lining of the joints, leading to inflammation, swelling, and pain. While RA is often associated with the hands and wrists, it can affect many other parts of the body, such as the lungs, heart, and even the eyes.

RA is not just a single type of pain or discomfort; it’s a complex condition with a wide range of symptoms and effects.

Symptoms and Challenges of RA

The symptoms of RA can be unpredictable and vary in intensity from person to person. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Persistent Joint Pain and Swelling: The inflammation caused by RA leads to painful, swollen joints. This can become a constant struggle, affecting both small and large joints.

  • Stiffness: Many people with RA experience stiffness, particularly noticeable in the morning or after sitting still for a long period. This stiffness can last for hours and significantly impact daily activities.

  • Chronic Fatigue: RA often causes a profound sense of tiredness or fatigue, making it hard to stay active or focused.

  • General Malaise: A general feeling of being unwell is common with RA, which can be both physically and emotionally draining.

  • Loss of Joint Function and Mobility: Over time, RA can lead to a decrease in range of motion or even permanent joint damage, impacting mobility and the ability to perform everyday tasks.

Impact on Work and Daily Life

The unpredictable nature of RA symptoms can make work and daily life challenging. Here are some examples of how RA can impact different work situations:

  • Physical Labor: For jobs that require manual labor, like construction or warehouse work, joint pain and stiffness can make it nearly impossible to perform tasks effectively.

  • Office Work: Even sedentary jobs can be difficult. Stiffness and pain in the hands can make typing or writing challenging, while overall fatigue can decrease productivity.

  • Customer Service Roles: The chronic pain and fatigue associated with RA can affect one’s ability to interact with customers, especially in roles requiring constant movement or standing for long periods.

Financial Strain from Treatment Costs

One of the significant challenges of living with RA is the financial burden of treatment. Medications, especially immunosuppressants, are crucial for controlling RA. However, these drugs can be incredibly expensive:

  • High Cost of Medications: Immunomodulators and biologic agents, common in RA treatment, can have copays ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, even with insurance.

  • Insurance Limitations: Not all insurance plans cover the full range of RA medications, which can limit treatment options and increase out-of-pocket expenses.

  • Ongoing Medical Expenses: Regular doctor visits, lab tests, and physical therapy add to the financial burden, making it difficult for some patients to maintain consistent treatment.

Managing RA requires a comprehensive approach that includes medical treatment, lifestyle adjustments, and often, significant financial planning to cope with the high cost of medications and healthcare.

Living with RA

Living with RA means navigating a life with fluctuating symptoms and challenges. It’s a condition that requires adaptation, resilience, and often, external support to manage effectively. The impact on daily life can be profound, affecting personal relationships, job performance, and overall quality of life.

For those with RA, understanding the condition, its symptoms, and the potential impact on various aspects of life is crucial in managing the disease effectively.

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Considered a Disability?

Under the Social Security Administration (SSA) guidelines, rheumatoid arthritis can be classified as a disability. This is particularly true when the condition severely limits one’s ability to work or perform daily activities. To qualify for disability benefits, specific criteria must be met, including medical documentation of the condition’s severity and its impact on your life.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

If you have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), you might know how tough it can be to do everyday things, like work or even simple tasks around the house. RA can hurt your joints and make them swell, making it hard to move. Sometimes, it can even affect other parts of your body. Because of this, getting disability benefits can help.

Understanding RA and Disability Benefits

RA is a medical condition where your immune system, which usually fights germs, mistakenly attacks your joints. This can cause a lot of pain and swelling, known as inflammatory arthritis. Over time, RA can damage major joints in your body, like hands, knees, and hips, and might even affect organs or body systems.

When RA Becomes a Disability

To get Social Security disability benefits, you need to show that your RA is serious. This means it must have been affecting you for at least 12 months, or it should be expected to affect you for that long. The symptoms, like joint pain and swelling, should be so bad that they stop you from doing the type of work you used to do or any other work.

Medical Records are Key

One of the most important things you’ll need to do is provide detailed medical records. These records should clearly show your RA diagnosis, the symptoms you have (RA symptoms), the treatment you’re getting, and how you’re responding to the treatment. Your doctor’s notes must be clear and detailed because they help the Social Security Administration (SSA) understand how bad your RA is.

How Your Ability to Work is Judged

The SSA will look at what you can still do despite your RA. This is known as a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. They’ll try to figure out if there’s any kind of work you can still do with your RA. For example, if you used to do a job that needed a lot of walking or lifting, but now you can’t, they’ll see if there’s another type of job you could do.

Getting Help with Your Application

Applying for these benefits can get pretty complicated. That’s why having a disability lawyer like those at Leventhal, Sutton & Gornstein can be a big help. They know a lot about the application processes for social security disability insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). They can help you:

  • Put together all your medical records in a way that makes your case strong.

  • Fill out the application forms properly.

  • Submit your application to the SSA.

If Your Application is Denied

Sometimes, even with a good application, the SSA might say no to your benefits. If this happens, don’t worry too much. You can ask for an appeal. This is when an administrative law judge looks at your case again. If the judge also says no, you can go even higher to something called the appeals council. A lawyer can be really helpful in this appeals process too.

Discover A Legal Team That Can Help You

If you or a loved one is struggling with the impact of rheumatoid arthritis and looking to get approved for disability benefits, it’s important to seek professional, legal guidance. Leventhal, Sutton & Gornstein is committed to helping you navigate this complex process. Contact them today for a consultation and take the first step towards securing the benefits you deserve.

Posted on February 6th, 2024 by Leventhal, Sutton and Gornstein

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