Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be A Qualifying Disability?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a condition with a range of symptoms and parts. Most people think of RA with swollen, disjointed fingers. This is only one outward symptom of a wide range. As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis causes the body to attack the lining tissue in the joints. The painful swelling eventually leads to deformity in the joints and erosion of the bones.

Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be A Qualifying Disability?

While there are multiple treatments available, they may not work for every patient. RA currently has no cure. The long-term progression of RA could mean eventual disability.


A person with RA may experience:

  • Joint stiffness is generally more difficult in the mornings and following inactivity
  • Tender joints that are swollen and warm
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

The smaller joints, such as fingers and toes, are generally the first to show signs of RA. However, the disease can attack any joints in the body. RA becomes progressively worse over time, spreading throughout the rest of the joints and the body.

Symptoms of RA can vary from person to person, and in severity. Roughly 40% of diagnosed patients have symptoms unrelated to their joints, such as:

  • Blood vessels
  • Bone marrow
  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Nerve tissue
  • Salivary glands
  • Skin

Although RA usually affects people in middle age, people of any age can develop it at any time. Women are more likely to develop RA, as well as those with a family history, smokers, and those carrying excess weight.

The RA Diagnosis

Just receiving a diagnosis is not enough to be considered “disabled.” Social Security does consider RA to be a qualifying disability only if it has progressed to severe enough symptoms that prevent you from working. This is the general standard Social Security uses for most conditions. Other criteria are if the condition will last longer than 12 months.

The Social Security Blue Book (Section 14.09) describes the various stages and degrees of RA that meet their specific criteria for disability. As long as you meet the criteria for RA set out in the Blue Book, chances are you’ll qualify for benefits. That doesn’t mean it’s easy—you will still have to demonstrate your disability to Social Security. You’ll need to provide documentation that proves your day-to-day limitations. This may include:

  • Documentation from a physician with a rheumatologist indicating the severity of your symptoms and the limitations they cause you
  • Diagnostics that show the progression of your RA—X-Rays, blood tests, and other lab work
  • Notes from your physician and other providers documenting the progression of your RA
  • Documentation of your response to prescribed appropriate treatments
  • A Residual Functional Capacity form (RFC) that your doctor has completed for you

The more documentation you have, the better. Offering the SSA a detailed and lengthy medical history gives them considerable proof to thoroughly examine your claim.

Detailed records show SSA examiners the full extent of RA symptoms and progression, and how this affects your ability to perform daily job tasks. Your work history also goes a long way in demonstrating your disability.

Conditions Related To RA

There are other co-existing conditions—called comorbidities—that frequently accompany RA:

  • Hypertension
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sjogren’s
  • Lupus
  • Other diseases involving connective tissues

It’s possible to receive disability for one of these illnesses if you don’t qualify for RA.

Because RA does restrict, and eventually prohibit, a patient’s ability to work, about 35% of patients file for disability within 10 years of their diagnosis.

The period between applying for disability and receiving payments can be months or even years. Over 70% of people who apply for disability benefits for any reason are denied on the first try and must go through a lengthy appeals process.

Applying for disability is an overwhelming task on par with building a house or planning a wedding. A large amount of documentation required can take a long time to obtain. Then your application must be filled out absolutely correctly.

If you’re dealing with RA as well as trying to apply for disability, consider working with a disability attorney who understands the process and can help you ensure that your application is completed correctly. You may be able to receive benefits sooner and avoid the entire appeals process.

Let Herren Law Help You With Your Disability Claim For Rheumatoid Arthritis

We’ve helped over 4,000 Houstonians get their disability benefits. The Herren Law Firm in Houston, TX can assist with your application, appeals, and records gathering to prove your case, and win your claim. Contact us today at 713-682-8194 (or use our online contact form) to schedule your free consultation. There’s no obligation and no up-front fees, and we only collect a fee if we win your case.

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