Friday, September 16, 2011

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (“RA”), which is an incurable form of inflammatory arthritis, is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. As a result of the attacks, fluid builds up in the joints, causing joint pain and inflammation throughout the body. The pain and stiffness from RA can become disabling.

When applying for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits, the most expeditious way to establish entitlement to benefits is to show that the claimant meets the criteria under “listing” 14.09. If the criteria of a “listing” are met then the applicant is presumed to be disabled, and no further medical or vocational development is required to approve SSD benefits.

Two ways to meet 14.09 is to demonstrate that the RA effects (a) at least one of the claimant’s major weight-bearing joints resulting in the inability to ambulate effectively, or (b) joints in each upper extremity resulting in the inability to perform fine and gross movements. Simply providing records showing a claimant has RA is insufficient to meet the listing because it does not show the functional effects of the disease.

I represent a 53 year old former salesperson with RA whose SSD application was approved today without ever being denied. I worked with the claimant’s rheumatologist to provide a letter to Social Security that explained why the claimant met listing 14.09. Without the rheumatologist’s listing opinion it is very unlikely that her SSD application would have been approved without a hearing.

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