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Social Security Disability Benefits and Arthritis

Part 1 of 2 - Steps Used to Determine Your Social Security Disability Benefits


Updated June 27, 2014

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability. How does a person suffering from arthritis qualify for Social Security disability benefits? According to Jim Allsup, the Social Security Administration uses a process called sequential evaluation to determine who will receive disability benefits. Mr. Allsup is president and CEO of Allsup Inc. Since 1984, Allsup claims his company has:

  • successfully helped over 100,000 people nationwide receive their entitled disability benefits.
  • achieved a 97% award rate.

Patients who have been helped by Allsup often suffer from rheumatic conditions and musculoskeletal diseases such as:

5 Steps to Determine Disability Benefits

What is the evaluation process used to determine disability benefits? Mr. Allsup explains the five-step sequential evaluation process:

Step 1: Are You Working?

Step 1 simply determines if an individual is "working", according to the Social Security Administration definition. Earning more than the Substantial Gainful Activity amount a month as an employee is enough for disqualification from receiving Social Security disability benefits.

Step 2: Is Your Condition Severe?

Step 2 implies that the impairment must be severe enough to significantly limit your ability to perform basic work activity. In addition, the impairment must last, or be expected to last, for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Step 3: Is Your Condition a Listed Impairment?

Step 3 asks if the impairment meets or equals a medical listing. Social Security Administration breaks the body down into 13 major systems or listings. Included in these 13 systems are more than 150 categories of medical conditions that, according to Social Security Administration, are severe enough to prevent an individual from performing any work.

Arthritis is considered under the Musculoskeletal Body System and has several specific medical listings or categories.

Inflammatory Arthritis

To satisfy the listing criteria, a person with inflammatory arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) must have persistent swelling, pain and limitation of joints such as the:

Degenerative Arthritis

People who have degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis) satisfy the requirements if they have significant limitations using their arms/hands or have a significant problem standing and walking. Those who have significant back or neck problems due to degenerative processes must have persistent sensory, reflex and motor loss to satisfy the listed criteria.

Conditions Not Listed

However, if a person's arthritis does not satisfy a medical listing, Social Security Administration continues to the next two steps to see whether the person might still qualify for disability benefits. At the next two steps:

Step 4: Can You Do Work You Did Previously?

Step 4 explores the ability of an individual to perform work he has done in the past despite his impairment. If Social Security Administration finds that a person can do his past work, benefits are denied. If the person cannot, then the process proceeds to the fifth and final step.

Step 5: Can You Do Any Other Type of Work?

Step 5 determines what other work, if any, the person can perform. Social Security Administration looks at:

  • age
  • education
  • work experience
  • physical/mental condition

To determine disability, Social Security Administration enlists vocational rules, which vary according to age. For example, if a person is:

  • Under age 50 and, as a result of the symptoms of arthritis, unable to perform what Social Security Administration calls sedentary work, then Social Security Administration will reach a determination of disabled. Sedentary work requires the ability to lift a maximum of 10 pounds at a time, sit six hours and occasionally walk and stand two hours per eight-hour day.
  • Age 50 or older and, due to his disability, limited to performing sedentary work but has no work-related skills that allow him to do so, Social Security Administration will reach a determination of disabled.
  • Over age 60 and, due to his disability, unable to perform any of the jobs he performed in the last 15 years, Social Security Administration will likely reach a determination of disabled.
  • Any age and, because of arthritis, has a psychological impairment that prevents even simple, unskilled work, Social Security Administration will reach a determination of disabled.

Go to Part 2 --- Disability Benefits: Overcoming Problems --->

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