Can You Get Disability for Arthritis?

Arthritis is a common condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by inflammation in the joints, which can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it is most commonly found in the hands, knees, and hips. While many people are able to manage their arthritis with medications and lifestyle changes, some cases can be so severe that they prevent people from working and performing daily activities. In these cases, disability benefits may be available.

Can You Get Disability for Arthritis?

Arthritis is a recognized disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA), but qualifying for disability benefits is not guaranteed for everyone with arthritis. To qualify, you must meet the SSA's basic disability conditions, which include demonstrating that you are disabled and that your condition is expected to last for at least a year.

In order for arthritis to be considered a disability by the SSA, arthritis SSDI applicants must meet Blue Book item 14.09. This Blue Book listing requires medical proof to meet the SSA classification for inflammatory arthritis. This means that you will need to provide detailed medical documentation that demonstrates the severity of your arthritis and how it affects your ability to work.

In addition to meeting the medical requirements, you must also meet financial requirements. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have sufficient work credits. Work credits are earned by paying Social Security taxes and are based on the amount of income you have earned over time. The number of work credits required for SSDI eligibility depends on your age and work history.

If you do not have enough work credits, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead. SSI is a needs-based program, and eligibility is based on your income and assets. To qualify for SSI, you must have limited income and assets, and your monthly income must be below a certain threshold.

Arthritis Locations

Arthritis can occur anywhere in the body since there are joints everywhere. Joint cartilage breakdown causes inflammation and arthritis. Since hands and knees are utilized often, the ailment is common there. Sports or repetitive motion injuries can cause arthritis. Arthritis makes work hard for this reason. Imagine working in a plant that involves lever-pulling and part-assembling. Some persons are unable to work due to hand arthritis and must seek assistance. Additionally, arthritis of the hip or knee can be a struggle for people who need to be mobile while working.

Arthritis Disability Benefits

Arthritis is considered the most prevalent work-related disability by the SSA. If you meet the employment requirements and have severe arthritis that prevents you from working for at least 12 months, the SSA will declare you disabled and grant you disability payments. Arthritis is one of numerous handicap conditions.

The SSA evaluates arthritic types differently. Arthritis disability claims might be automatically approved if joint dysfunction, such as misalignment, shortening, chronic pain, or stiffness, is present. You may also prove that you underwent knee or hip surgery and would be unable to walk for at least a year. Inflammatory or spine arthritis might also be used to approve a claim. Medical evidence is needed to prove that your arthritis prevents you from working.

SSA Arthritis Disability Determination

Before the SSA decides if you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits for arthritis, you must get medical treatment for at least three months. If you have medical proof of arthritis in your hands, feet, knees, or back, you may qualify for disability compensation. Disability benefits need financial eligibility.

If your arthritis qualifies you for Social Security disability compensation, follow these procedures:

Financial Needs - The SSA initially verifies your employment. Social Security Disability will exclude you if you can undertake considerable gainful activity (in 2022, $1,470 per month). Work credits are needed for SSDI. Work and Social Security taxes earn these. Work credits are usually sufficient if you have worked five of the last ten years. SSDI eligibility depends on age and credit count. Supplement Security Income may be available if you have low income and assets but not enough job credits (SSI). You must have less than $2,000 in assets to qualify for SSI. SSI eligibility is dependent on household income, thus the SSA will evaluate your spouse's income.

Arthritis Disability Benefits Medical Criteria - The SSA decides if your arthritis prevents you from working. Activities could include sitting or standing, kneeling or walking, lifting, and fine-motor skills. Your arthritis may prevent you from doing heavy, medium, light, or even sedentary labor. Even though they are competent of sedentary employment, persons nearing retirement may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if they lack the Blue Book standards.

Arthritic people must have swelling, pain, and limited or painful joint movement to qualify for disability compensation. For arthritis benefits, you must meet SSA Blue Book entry 14.09 Inflammatory arthritis. This listing requires chronic inflammation or deformity of one or more main peripheral weight-bearing joints preventing ambulation or one or more peripheral joints in each upper extremity preventing fine and large movements.

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Alternatively, inflammation or deformity in one or more peripheral joints with involvement of two or more body systems or organs, one of which is moderately severe, and at least two constitutional symptoms or signs (such as fatigue or fever), spinal ankylosis, or inflammatory arthritis with two constitutional symptoms (such as limitations of daily activities or maintaining social functioning). This Blue Book listing can assess psoriatic, rheumatoid, and other debilitating illnesses.

If observable symptoms do not qualify a person for Social Security disability, the SSA will assess whether they can reasonably be anticipated to conduct any past employment. If the SSA finds that you cannot perform any of your prior jobs, they will assess your age, education, experience, and mental and physical health to determine if you can be taught for another job. Social Security Disability payments will be denied if you can be trained to work.

Psoriatic Arthritis Disability Benefits

Psoriatic arthritis can be so severe that it affects work. Psoriatic arthritis develops in long-term psoriasis sufferers. Psoriasis is caused by skin irritation. Psoriatic arthritis occurs when psoriasis inflames joints, especially where tendons and ligaments attach to bones. Psoriatic arthritis discomfort may prevent work. Psoriatic arthritis's location affects workability. Even computer keyboard operators will be affected by finger and hand arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis patients who cannot work for 12 months despite treatment may qualify for disability benefits.

Psoriatic arthritis disability eligibility criteria include how SSA Blue Book item 14.09 symptoms mirror arthritis, when medical proof shows a deteriorating condition likely to preclude gainful employment for at least 12 months, sufficient work history to accrue SSA-determined work credits for social security disability benefits (SSDI), or income and assets below the SSA's SSI threshold.

Medical Proof of Claim

The SSA handles your application. The Blue Book rules determine your disability benefits eligibility, thus your documentation is crucial. The rules assist assess eligibility, and your input helps construct a picture of your individual situation. Your doctor's diagnosis is your strongest proof. Also, the diagnosis, test results, x-rays or CT scans, and other diagnostic data should be included. Your treatment plan, prescriptive drugs, physiotherapy info, treatment progress report, and medicine side effects (this can play a role in the decision) should also be included. List your doctors and where you were treated. If the SSA asks inquiries, this is crucial.

Provide as much information as possible so the SSA can make a decision without requesting more. More information helps them decide.

Arthritis Medical-Vocational Allowance

Medical-vocational allowances may qualify applicants for Social Security disability benefits. When someone applies for Social Security disability payments with a condition that may limit work, the medical-vocational allowance applies. RFC, age, education, and job experience are evaluated to establish medical-vocational allowance eligibility. The Social Security Administration considers whether an applicant's extertional and nonexertional limits preclude them from working.

Your residual function capacity is the maximum amount of work that you are able to perform as a result of your condition as determined by the SSA. Medical records are crucial because RFCs vary. Workplace non-exertional demands include mental capacity, posture and balance, use of hands (manipulative), visual, spoken and aural communication, and environmental. Exertional demands of employment involve movements, including walking, standing, sitting, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling. The SSA will assess if a job's exertional and nonexertional demands affect an applicant's arthritis. Medical-vocational allowances are considered if arthritis prevents a person from working.

Consider a hands-on occupational therapist. She massages muscles, strains, and sprains every day to assist patients recuperate. She can no longer manipulate stiff muscles, which is her work, due to arthritis in her hands. There are no ways to adapt or work around the needs of her profession. Arthritis prevents her from working. This would be a prime case of a medical-vocational allowance, as her arthritis does not make her incapacitated by definition, but it does hinder her from completing her job.

Medical documentation is key to collecting Social Security disability benefits.

Osteoarthritis qualifies

Those with severe, degenerative osteoarthritis cannot work or exercise. Osteoarthritis is so debilitating that it regularly forces people to retire.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects cartilage and bones, causing pain and stiffness. As the disease progresses, the cartilage between the joints wears down, resulting in the bones rubbing against each other. This leads to pain, inflammation, and stiffness, which can make it difficult to complete even simple tasks.

The good news is that osteoarthritis can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if it meets the Blue Book's requirements. The SSA will evaluate the severity of your osteoarthritis based on your medical records, including imaging studies and lab tests.

To qualify for disability benefits with osteoarthritis, you must meet the Blue Book Listing 1.02 for major dysfunction of a joint(s). This listing requires that your osteoarthritis be severe enough to cause difficulty with walking, standing, or using your hands. You must also show medical evidence of joint dysfunction, such as joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis.

If you do not meet the requirements of Listing 1.02, the SSA will consider whether your osteoarthritis affects your ability to perform your past work or any other type of work. The SSA will evaluate your age, education, work experience, and other factors to determine if there is any other work you can perform. If the SSA determines that you cannot perform any other work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.


Arthritis can be a debilitating condition that makes it difficult or impossible to work. If you have been diagnosed with arthritis and are unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. The SSA evaluates arthritis based on the type of arthritis you have, the severity of your symptoms, and how your arthritis affects your ability to work.

To qualify for disability benefits, you must meet the SSA's basic disability conditions, which include being disabled for at least a year. Arthritis SSDI applicants must meet Blue Book item 14.09, and medical proof is needed to meet the SSA classification for inflammatory arthritis. You must also meet financial requirements.

If you have arthritis and are unable to work, it is important to gather as much medical evidence as possible to support your claim. This may include diagnostic tests, treatment plans, and progress reports. You should also consider consulting with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney to help guide you through the process and increase your chances of success.

Remember, arthritis can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if it meets the Blue Book's requirements or if it affects your ability to perform your past work or any other type of work. With the right medical evidence and legal representation, you may be able to obtain the disability benefits you need to support yourself and your family.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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