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Osteoarthritis and Disability

Is it possible to get Social Security Disability Benefits?

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Updated May 19, 2014

Osteoarthritis is a painful, degenerative type of arthritis. Physical activity and working can become difficult or impossible. Some people with osteoarthritis are forced to stop working because their condition becomes so severe and limiting.

If you have to stop working, qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits may be possible. If you have worked long enough and paid FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes you may qualify. Understanding the evaluation process for Social Security Disability can help you start the application phase and ultimately reach a successful outcome.

The Disability Evaluation Process

Evaluation criteria which is based on symptoms is slightly different for the various types of arthritis. For example, persistent swelling is a symptom which is significant for inflammatory types of arthritis but not osteoarthritis. The sequence of five steps which determine disability is the same though.

1 - Are you still working?
Does your condition prevent you from performing basic work activity at the level which the Social Security Administration defines as substantial gainful activity?

2 - Is your condition severe?
Is your condition expected to last for 12 continuous months or more?

3 - Is your condition on the List of Impairments?
Is your condition among the more than 150 categories of medical conditions which Social Security considers to be severe enough to prevent a person from working?

4 - Can you do any work you have done in the past?
Do you have the ability to perform past work despite your current impairment?

5 - Can you do any other type of work?
Considering your medical condition, age, education, and past work experience, do you have skills that could be used to do other work?

Specific Requirements for Osteoarthritis

Generally, with regard to musculoskeletal conditions, Social Security states, "Regardless of the cause(s) of a musculoskeletal impairment, functional loss for purposes of these listings is defined as the inability to ambulate effectively on a sustained basis for any reason, including pain associated with the underlying musculoskeletal impairment, or the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively on a sustained basis for any reason, including pain associated with the underlying musculoskeletal impairment."

People with degenerative osteoarthritis qualify if they have significant limitations while using hands or arms, or while standing or walking. People with back (spine osteoarthritis) or neck osteoarthritis must have persistent sensory, reflex, and motor loss as well.

Sources:
Disability Benefits. Social Security Administration. Publication No. 05-10029
<http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10029.html>.
Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. Listing of Impairments. Adult Listing.
<http://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/1.00-Musculoskeletal-Adult.htm>.

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