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How Do I Prove to Social Security That My Arthritis Is a Disability?

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

arthritis, disability benefits, Chicago Social Security Disability Insurance lawyerAs we discussed in part one of this series, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects millions of Americans. In fact, according to the not-for-profit Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the “number one cause of disability” in the United States. The Foundation further notes that approximately one-third of persons suffering from arthritis “have limitations in their ability to work, the type of work they can do or whether they can work part time or full time.” In many cases, a person’s rheumatoid arthritis is so severe they may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Using a Walker Is Not Proof of a Disability

Unfortunately, simply complaining about arthritis-related pain, no matter how severe, will not convince the Social Security Administration to award disability benefits. Social Security has very particular guidelines for assessing disability claims based on “inflammatory arthritis.” Under these guidelines, one way that a claimant can establish a disability is with medical evidence that his or her arthritis has led to “persistent inflammation or persistent deformity of one one more major peripheral weight-bearing joints resulting in the inability to ambulate effectively.” For example, if rheumatoid arthritis has progressed to the point where a person cannot walk without the assistance of a hand-held walker, that would constitute proof of a disability.

But again, the claimant’s subjective claim that he or she needs a walker to cope with arthritis will not suffice before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ). In one recent case, a 44-year-old Illinois woman filed an application for disability benefits. She said she had stopped working in 2011 because she had “pain all over” her body due to arthritis. To that end, she used a walker, which she said proved she was disabled and unable to work.

The ALJ disagreed and denied the woman’s application. On appeal, a federal magistrate upheld the ALJ’s decision. The magistrate noted the ALJ was “skeptical of the plaintiff’s need for a walker.” Although the applicant said it was medically prescribed, the evidence presented to Social Security indicated that she requested the walker from her health care provider “because she got tired when walking long distances.” In fact, the magistrate said, no doctor ever made a medical determination regarding her need for a walker.

More to the point, the magistrate said the applicant’s subjective complaints about her arthritis were not supported by medical documentation. “No healthcare provider ever documented inflammation or deformity of a major weight-bearing joint,” which is the standard required by Social Security disability guidelines. To the contrary, at least three medical professionals examined the applicant and all reported “normal” or “unremarkable” findings.

Get Help From a Chicago Social Security Disability Lawyer

The example of the above case should not discourage you from seeking Social Security benefits if you are unable to work due to arthritis. What the case illustrates is the importance of obtaining proper medical documentation of your condition and not simply assuming Social Security will take your word for it. An experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer can help you with this and all other aspects of dealing with Social Security claims. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need to speak with a disability attorney right away.



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