Osteoarthritis can occur in almost any joint in the body, leaving you stiff, swollen, and in severe pain. Muscle weakness and a smaller range of motion can also limit your abilities, preventing you from working, walking, or even taking care of yourself. If you suffer from severe osteoarthritis, you may be eligible to draw Social Security disability benefits based on your work history, income, and impairments.
If the Social Security Administration (SSA) agrees that your osteoarthritis prevents you from doing a number of the most common activities necessary to hold a job, e.g., sitting, standing, walking, lifting, or writing, it may award you with benefits. At Berger and Green, we have represented hundreds of Pittsburgh clients who needed help filing benefit claims. Call us at 412-661-1400 to learn more about getting Social Security disability for osteoarthritis in Pittsburgh.
How can I qualify for Social Security Disability benefits?
The first qualification you must meet before receiving approval of your Social Security disability benefits is to show the SSA that your health prevents you from engaging in “substantial gainful activity.”
While this level can change each year, the maximum amount you can earn in 2017 to meet this qualification is $1,170 per month. If you are able to work enough to earn more than this maximum, you are participating in substantial gainful activity, and are not eligible for benefits.
The second qualification is to show that your health condition is the reason why you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity. The “easiest” way to do this is for your condition to fall under one of the SSA’s impairment listings. These conditions will qualify you as disabled, if you meet the listing’s severity criteria and the rest of the necessary qualifications.
Because osteoarthritis affects each person differently, your condition could fall under several impairment listings. If you do not qualify through these listings, your doctor can help you provide proof of your limitations.
What listing impairments may cover my osteoarthritis?
If your osteoarthritis occurs in any area of your body besides your back, you are most likely to qualify for Social Security Disability because of a joint dysfunction, as outlined in Listing 1.02. This requires showing that your osteoarthritis deformed the joint, causing pain and loss of range of motion. This must occur in:
- Your hip, knee, or ankle and cause mobility issues; or
- Your shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand and prevent writing or other similar activities (must be both arms)
If your osteoarthritis affects your back, you may qualify for Social Security Disability because of a spinal disorder, as described in Listing 1.04. This requires suffering from a compromised nerve root or having it affect your spinal cord in a way that includes:
- Nerve root compression with pain, limited flexibility, loss of feeling, and loss of muscle strength;
- Spinal arachnoiditis with burning or other similar sensations; or
- Lumbar spinal stenosis with pain in the back and legs and weakness that limits mobility
To prove you qualify under one of these listings, you will need to provide x-rays or other documents showing the affected joints. Your doctor may also provide other documents to support your claim. We can help ensure you have the evidence you need to show the SSA that you qualify for benefits under one of these impairment listings, or to pursue an application based on other disabilities.
What if none of the listing impairments apply?
If your osteoarthritis prevents you from working but does not fall under the either of the listings outlined by the SSA, it is harder to prove that you qualify for disability benefits. It is not impossible, however.
Instead of providing proof that you fit under one of the predetermined impairment listings, you will need to provide documentation to show your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC assessment, filled out by your doctor, shows your abilities and limitations, and helps the SSA determine if you are capable of working.
The SSA rates jobs based on the abilities necessary to complete them, from heavy to medium to light to sedentary. Sedentary work requires mostly remaining seated and rarely lifting anything more than ten pounds. Based on your RFC, they may find you are capable of sedentary work if you can sit for extended periods of time, and can walk or stand when needed. Sedentary jobs also often require typing, reaching, writing, answering phones and other abilities that can be impossible when osteoarthritis affects your arms or hands.
When osteoarthritis affects your back, hips, or legs and limits mobility, however, you could be unable to stand and walk, and qualify for disability benefits depending on your age and the type of work you have done in the past. If you cannot do this type of work, the SSA should approve you for benefits.
Do I have to meet any other criteria?
To be eligible for SSDI, you must have a certain number of work credits. Your age and the amount of money you made every year will determine how many credits you have. For example, a 50-year-old needs 28 credits.
If you have not worked long enough, you might be eligible for SSI. To qualify, you must have a low income and low assets.
How can Berger and Green help me get the benefits I deserve?
At Berger and Green, we work with clients who need help with their SSDI or SSI application. Whether you are just preparing your initial application or have already received a denial, we can help you get the benefits you deserve.
Call us today at 412-661-1400 to schedule a free case evaluation.