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Largely because of his nocturnal escapades, millionaire Bruce Wayne developed arthritis in his knees and other joints, although for some reason, the doctor never used the A-word. In the film, someone, presumably Lucious Fox, developed a gadget which made Wayne as good as new. But in the real world, us “non-billionaires” cannot afford such gadgets and they are probably unavailable or only located in the nether regions of the world anyway. As a result, normal every-day people must live with chronic arthritis symptoms. Fortunately, as outlined below, arthritis Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are available.

Mr. Wayne could not go heliskiing because he had no cartilage in his knees, and not much in his elbows or shoulders. That’s usually what arthritis is. This condition usually affects the cartilage, which is the soft tissue which connects joints. Mostly due to wear and tear, this cartilage deteriorates either all at once or over time. As a result, bone grinds against bone, causing pain and inflammation. The inflammation harms the remaining cartilage, which is the main reason arthritis is degenerative. This condition is extremely common. It affects about a fourth of the adults in the United States.

As mentioned, disability benefits are available for a variety of maladies, but the Social Security Administration does not simply give them away. That’s especially true of common conditions like arthritis. Many Claims Examiners fear, rightly or wrongly, that if they approve too many arthritis claims, the floodgates would open and the rushing tide would overwhelm the system. At the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm, we help ALL disability claimants, including arthritis claimants, get ALL of the benefits they deserve.

Types of Arthritis

Many things cause physical or mental disabilities. Some people are injured in car crashes or other random tragic events and are unable to recover from their injuries. Others have a genetic predisposition to certain conditions or illnesses. In other situations, it’s a combination of both.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is by far the most common form of arthritis. It is almost always a wear and tear disease, although injury or genetic predisposition can hasten the process. Common risk factors include gender (no one is sure why OA is more common in women than in men), weight, age, repetitive joint stress, and an injury to the joint.

Osteoarthritis is also the most serious form of arthritis. It affects the entire joint, as opposed to part of it. It also alters bone structure, making everyday tasks, like walking or typing, difficult or impossible. Additionally, the intense, chronic pain often causes depression and sleeplessness.

A wide range of OA treatments are available. Sometimes, however, the treatment is far too risky. Hip arthritis is a good example. Even a slight cartilage loss in this ball-and-socket joint can have grave consequences. Hip replacement surgery could solve the problem, but not everyone is a candidate for such a radical procedure.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an immune system disease. The effects are roughly the same, but the cause is different. For reasons that are unclear, natural antibodies sometimes attack joint capsules. These attacks cause swelling and inflammation. Over time, these symptoms destroy cartilage and erode bones. 

If RA is caught early enough, a Rheumatologist doctor can often help reverse the effects. Since the 1990s, many safe and effective Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs have become available. DMARDS are usually the centerpiece of a therapy plan. If RA is misdiagnosed, which is common, or the patient does not immediately seek help, which is also common, the outlook is much bleaker.

The Disability Standard

If you have arthritis, the doctor never says “You have a disability.” Instead, this word has different meanings in different contexts. For arthritis Social Security Disability Insurance purposes, claimants are disabled if:

  • They are unable to work, and
  • Their condition will last at least twelve months or is fatal.

Let’s look at these elements in more detail. Inability to work usually means an inability to hold substantial, gainful employment. This inability could be non-economic, but it is almost always economic in nature.

Claimants who cannot earn enough money to live above the poverty line can be considered disabled for SSDI or SSI purposes. Perhaps they cannot work enough hours because their arthritis sharply limits their activity. Or, perhaps they can only work part-time at a simple job that pays minimum wage.

OA, and usually RA, are permanent conditions. However, they might not be permanently disabling. The SSA law firm, Heermans Disability Law Firm of the Mid-South, must establish permanence of the condition. Even then, the SSA often orders periodic re-examinations, to determine if the claimant’s condition has improved and is no longer disabling.

ALJ Hearing and Disability Lawyers in Memphis

Because of these legal hurdles, Claims Examiners generally deny a large number of arthritis claims, at least in part. It’s important to have a lawyer representing you so that you do not get discouraged and give up. These initial denials are unfortunately, often part of the process. This does not mean Arthritis claims are meritless. Instead, a denial means that, based on the Claims Examiner’s interpretation of the medical records, the claimant is not “disabled” according to SSA standards. All the more reason to have your attorney at Heermans Disability Law Firm in your corner. 

At a subsequent hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, things are much different. Attorneys can introduce evidence, challenge evidence, and make legal arguments. Therefore, when the ALJ decides the matter, there is much more evidence in the record than the original Claims Examiner’s  subjective opinion.

There is almost always a lengthy delay between the initial hearing and the ALJ appeal. In many cases, this delay could be more than a year. That’s a long time to wait. But the good news is that SSDI benefits are usually retroactive to the claim filing date. In some cases, the retroactivity date could be even earlier, if the claimant became disabled a substantial amount of time before the filing date.

Typically, the amount of monthly arthritis disability benefits depends on the amount of taxes the claimant has paid into the system. Currently, benefits usually average around $1,200 a month. This money is usually tax-free. And, most recipients can usually work part time, as long as the work does not qualify as substantial, gainful employment.

If you have been denied SSDI benefits or for more information about the SSDI process, contact the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm at (901) 244-0057 or our online contact form.