Is rheumatoid arthritis considered a disability? Well, if you ask someone with this condition, they would probably reply with “yes.” Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder and not a result of just normal wear and tear like in osteoarthritis. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience swelling, pain, stiffness, redness, and warmth in the affected areas, contributing to loss of mobility and deformity of joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and may even make some patients incapable of work. In this case, you may qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
To qualify for SSD benefits, one needs to demonstrate that rheumatoid arthritis has been lasting for at least a year and prevents you from performing your work duties or conducting work you can be trained for. Older patients have an easier time qualifying for SSD benefits as they cannot be easily trained for available work. These individuals are often over the age of 50 and are not expected to be trained for new types of work. To qualify for SSD benefits, patients must show that they are unable to maintain meaningful work, either physical or sedentary.
Rheumatoid arthritis can impede a person’s ability to perform physical work as it can affect your ability to stand for long periods of time, walk, lift, bend, push, pull, or complete repetitive movements.
Those patients closer to retirement who have only performed physical labor are less likely to be expected to change their type of work and thus qualify for SSD benefits easier. Those who are younger may be expected to change the type of work they perform to lighter duties if possible.
Even sedentary work can be impacted by rheumatoid arthritis. This type of work typically involves a computer, keyboard, and mouse, so fine motor skills are often used. Pain in the wrists and fingers may limit a person’s ability to perform such work, so in order to qualify for SSD benefits they must show that they can no longer perform such work.
We know that the progression of rheumatoid arthritis can lead to further pain, swelling, and deformity, so the key to prolonging mobility is early detection and medical intervention. Newer and more effective treatments are constantly coming out to improve the outcomes and delay the associated disability.
Compared to 20 years ago, rheumatoid arthritis patients are living longer without disability – which is an example of how far medical advancements have come. Furthermore, psychological distress related to rheumatoid arthritis has also been cut in half in the last two decades.
Therefore, delay of disability associated with rheumatoid arthritis is possible with advanced treatment and early detection of the condition.