Guest Post: Applying for Social Security Disability with Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you have rheumatoid arthritis which has progressed to the stage that it severely affects your daily abilities, including your ability to complete typical duties required to maintain gainful employment, then you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two disability programs for which you may be eligible:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which is a benefit program for workers who have paid into the Social Security system in the past.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a need-based program intended to provide benefits to disabled workers and their dependents who have very limited income and other financial resource and who may or may not be eligible for SSDI.

Meeting the Basic SSD Requirements for Both Programs

To be eligible for SSD benefits, you must meet both the medical and technical requirements defined by the SSA. The medical requirements include having a medical condition that:

  • prevents gainful employment
  • has lasted or is expected to last a year or more or which is terminal

The technical eligibility for SSDI dictate you have:

  • the predetermined number of work credits built up over the course of your employment, based on your age at the time you become disabled,


  • earnings from employment of $1,040 per month or less, which is what the SSA considers gainful employment (as of 2013).

SSI technical eligibility is determined by your total countable income and resources. The calculation of these resources is fairly complex, with some sources of income and some financial resources and assets being counted and others not. As a need-based program however, your income and available resources must be very limited to qualify for SSI.

You can learn more about the differences between SSDI and SSI HERE.

Meeting the SSA’s Listing for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The SSA maintains a list, which is known as the Blue Book, of conditions known to be disabling. Rheumatoid arthritis is included on that list and falls under the listing in Section 14.09, which is titled “Inflammatory Arthritis”.

To qualify for benefits under this listing, your application and your medical records must specifically show one of the following to be true:

  1. At least one of your major joints that support your weight or which allow you to walk, reach, grasp, or perform other essential functions is affected by ongoing inflammation or persistent or advancing deformity.
  2. deformity or inflammation of at least one of your major joints that is accompanied by:
    • severe affects to one of more of your organs or body systems


    • a minimum of two full body symptoms of the autoimmune affects of rheumatoid arthritis, including any of the following:
      • unintentional and uncontrolled weight loss
      • severe fatigue
      • persistent fever
      • malaise
  1. inflammation in your spinal column, or fusing of vertebrae in your spine resulting in significant malformation of the spine and an inability to maintain a proper stance
  2. continuous symptoms with at least two of the autoimmune symptoms listed above, which also results in:
    • pronounced reduction in your overall daily abilities
    • significant effects on your ability to function socially
    • an inability to complete tasks in a reasonable timeframe or to maintain a consistent pace, to concentrate, or remain on task

Submitting Your Application for SSD

You can complete your disability application online at the SSA’s website or in person at your local SSA office. The online application is often the fastest way to file a claim, as there is no need to wait for an appointment.

You may wish to get help with your claim from a Social Security advocate or disability attorney. Having help from someone more familiar with the process can potentially increase your chances of being approved for benefits.

Article by Ram Meyyappan


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