Many people suffer from joint pain at some point in their lives. Sometimes the pain lasts weeks; sometimes it lasts months or years. Pain in the joints can manifest from various causes, including aging, arthritis, inflammation, osteoporosis, and infection, to name a few.
While mild joint pain and soreness do not qualify for Social Security disability benefits, severe, debilitating chronic joint pain might. Below, we discuss the two primary ways to qualify for Social Security disability for chronic joint pain in Pittsburgh. For a free consultation to discuss your eligibility for benefits, call Berger and Green today at 412-661-1400.
Can I qualify as disabled under a listing for chronic joint pain?
In the Blue Book, the Social Security Administration (SSA) keeps a list of potentially disabling impairments and their criteria. If you meet the specific criteria for a given condition on the list, the SSA will likely consider you disabled.
For example, if your chronic joint pain results from arthritis, lupus, or hip surgery, you may qualify as disabled if you meet the requirements for those listings.
The SSA also has a specific listing for “Major dysfunction of a joint(s) due to any cause,” found in Section 1.02. In order to meet this listing, you must have:
- Medical evidence of a “gross anatomical deformity” such as a narrowing of the joint space, the degradation of bone or bony destruction, or ankylosis (fusing of joints);
- “Chronic joint pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s)”; and
- Your condition must involve either A) “one major peripheral weight-bearing joint (i.e., hip, knee, or ankle), resulting in inability to ambulate (walk) effectively”, or B) one major peripheral joint in each upper extremity (i.e., shoulder, elbow, or wrist-hand), resulting in inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively.
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Can I qualify as disabled for joint pain if I do not meet a listing?
Meeting a listing is only one way for the SSA to deem you disabled. In fact, there are a lot of disabling medical conditions that cause joint pain that are not in the Blue Book. Fibromyalgia, bursitis, and gout are just a few examples.
If your symptoms do not match all the criteria of any listing, the SSA will perform an RFC or residual functional capacity assessment. During this evaluation, the claims examiner will review your medical files and other evidence, determine what your functional capacities are, and see if there are any jobs that you can still perform, despite your limitations.
If the SSA determines that your chronic joint pain and other symptoms greatly impair your mobility and prevent you from doing any work, then it may determine you as disabled via a “medical vocational allowance.”
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How do I prove my disability to the SSA?
Pain is subjective and difficult to verify with medical records; it does not appear on x-rays or other diagnostic tests. To prove your condition to the SSA, you will need to have sufficient medical evidence that shows you have real impairment causing your symptoms.
The SSA explains:
Pain may be an important factor contributing to functional loss. In order for pain or other symptoms to be found to affect an individual’s ability to perform basic work activities, medical signs or laboratory findings must show the existence of a medically determinable impairment(s) that could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms.
Your records should include items such as:
- Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs
- Bone scans, results of electrodiagnostic procedures, and other lab findings
- Your doctor’s detailed descriptions of the affected joints, including ranges of motion, condition of the musculature (e.g., weakness, atrophy), sensory or reflex changes, and circulatory deficits.
- A detailed description of physical examination findings
It can also help to submit letters from people who know about your limitations, such as your employer, spouse, therapist, and coworkers. The SSA will consider their input about how your symptoms are limiting your ability to work when they review your case.
Without sufficient medical evidence, the SSA will deny your claim. We know what evidence the SSA is looking for and we will help you find it.
Berger and Green can help you to file your application for Social Security Disability benefits. We understand that this process can be overwhelming, but we are here to help.
What are the other criteria to qualify for Social Security disability benefits?
To qualify for benefits for chronic joint pain, you must meet several basic criteria:
- You must have an impairment that either meets a listing or is severe enough that it impairs your ability to work.
- A doctor must expect your condition to last a year or longer or result in death.
- You must be unable to perform “substantial gainful activity,” which means you are not capable of making more than $1,130 a month.
- You must meet certain financial criteria (for those applying for Supplemental Security Income) or work history requirements (for those applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits).
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What if the SSA denies my chronic joint pain disability claim?
If the SSA has recently denied your application for benefits, our team at Berger and Green in Pittsburgh can help you appeal your case. We can help gather additional evidence to support your case and request that the SSA reconsider their decision. There are several levels of appeals we can use, if necessary.
However, there is a strict time limit on appeals. If we do not take action within 60 days of your letter of denial, you might lose your chance for benefits. Contact our office at 412-661-1400 to discuss your case and see how we may be able to help improve your chances of getting you the benefits you are entitled to.