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There are many ways to define ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an autoimmune disorder. However, it is also an inflammatory arthritic disorder and a rheumatic disease.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a condition that can affect various areas of the body, such as the heart, the eyes, the lungs, and kidneys. But AS usually causes inflammation in the joints of the spine and the joints between the pelvis and the spine, called the sacroiliac (SI) joints.

The most painful symptom of AS is that it can result in “ankylosis,” which is when new bone forms at the site of inflammation. The new bone formation can lead to a fusion of the spinal joints. Therefore, if you have AS you may suffer from a stiff spine and reduced mobility. Reduced mobility impairs your ability to engage in normal daily activities. Additionally, you can also suffer damage to the hips, knees, ankles, and shoulder joints. If the damage is severe enough, then they may require surgery for total joint replacement. AS is a medical condition for which there is no cure.

ankylosing spondylitis vertebrae showing inflammation and fusion


Almost 1% of the population in the United States has AS. However, AS is more common in men than in women. It is unusual for ankylosing spondylitis to affect a person after the age of forty. Most people are found to have the condition between their teen years and their early thirties.

AS also runs in families. As there is a gene called HLA-B27, that most people with AS have. However, the gene only predisposes a person to developing ankylosing spondylitis. If you have the gene and AS, you may also experience anterior uveitis, which includes symptoms such as eye pain and blurred vision.

Ankylosing spondylitis is known by other names. For example, it used to be called Marie-Strumpells spondylitis after two doctors who described the disease. It has also been known as poker back, and rheumatoid spondylitis. Few people have heard of AS, unless they have the condition. In short, AS is a type of severe arthritis that affects the joints of the spine.


While AS can be diagnosed through the arthritic changes in the spine and the sacroiliac joints, currently, there are no blood tests to that prove you have AS. Instead, doctors use your symptoms to show you have AS. Those symptoms include:

  • Chronic, inflammatory back pain with:
    (1) Age of onset below 40 years old, (2) insidious onset, (3) improvement with exercise, (4) no improvement with rest, and (5) pain at night (better upon getting up)
  • Past history of inflammation in the joints, heels, or tendon-bone attachments
  • Family history for axial spondyloarthritis or other autoimmune conditions
  • Positive for the gene HLA-B27
  • Good response to treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Signs of elevated inflammation, like a high SED rate
  • Inflammatory bowel disease or eye inflammation
  • MRI shows inflammation of the sacroiliac joint
  • Osteoporosis with compression fractures and a back hump

The first known case of AS in the United States was described in a small pamphlet by David Tucker in 1858. That pamphlet talked about Leonard Trask who had a severe spinal deformity due to AS. In 1833, Mr. Trask fell from a horse which made his AS worse. His neck and back curved over time, to the point that his head sat on his breast bone.


Ankylosing spondylitis can cause significant damage to your joints and your organs. Additionally, the stiffness, pain, and lack of mobility can make working 40 hours a week difficult. However, if a doctor catches the condition in its early stages and treats you with medications, you can avoid some of the damage that results from the chronic inflammation.

If your AS keeps you from working, you can apply for SSDI and SSI benefits through the SSA. However, you must be off work for over 12 months or expect to be off work that long. If you apply for SSDI benefits, you must also have earned enough quarters of coverage by working to qualify for the SSDI program.  If you win SSDI benefits, then you also get Medicare benefits after a 29 month waiting period. Learn more about Medicare benefits here.

If you have not worked enough to be covered for insurance under the SSDI program, then you can apply for SSI benefits. In order to win SSI benefits, you must also have very little income and few assets. SSI benefits come with Medicaid benefits. Medicaid benefits are a form of health insurance coverage. Learn more about Medicaid benefits here.

If you’re applying for SSDI, you can file your entire claim online on Social Security’s website. If you do not want to fill out forms online, you can call also apply by telephone. Call the SSA at 800-772-1213 to start your application.


The listing the SSA uses to determine if you win benefits for AS, is listing 14.09 – Section C.  As you can see, Section C requires you to have severe curvature of the spine. Section C, Part 1, states you must have:

  • Fixation of the dorsolumbar or cervical spine at 45° or more of flexion from the vertical position.

Section C, Part B, requires you to have:

  • Fixation of the dorsolumbar or cervical spine at 30° or more of flexion from the vertical position, plus involvement of two or more organs/body systems, one of which must be involved to at least a moderate level of severity).

The involvement of two or more body systems or organs can be the eye, the heart, IBS, or lung and kidney problems. Listing 14.09 only requires moderate issues in the two or more body systems or organs. Below you will find the entire listing of 14.09.

14.09 Inflammatory arthritis. As described in 14.00D6. With:

Section A. Persistent inflammation or persistent deformity of:

1. One or more major peripheral weight-bearing joints resulting in the inability to ambulate effectively; or

2. One or more major peripheral joints in each upper extremity resulting in the inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively.


Section B. Inflammation or deformity in one or more major peripheral joints with:

1. Involvement of two or more organs/body systems with one of the organs/body systems involved to at least a moderate level of severity; and

2. At least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss).


Section C. Ankylosing spondylitis or other spondyloarthropathies, with:

1. Ankylosis (fixation) of the dorsolumbar or cervical spine as shown by appropriate medically acceptable imaging and measured on physical examination at 45° or more of flexion from the vertical position (zero degrees); or

2. Ankylosis (fixation) of the dorsolumbar or cervical spine as shown by appropriate medically acceptable imaging and measured on physical examination at 30° or more of flexion (but less than 45°) measured from the vertical position (zero degrees), and involvement of two or more organs/body systems with one of the organs/body systems involved to at least a moderate level of severity.


Section D. Repeated manifestations of inflammatory arthritis, with at least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss) and one of the following at the marked level:

1. Limitation of activities of daily living.

2. Limitation in maintaining social functioning.

3. Limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace.


The SSA may not believe that your symptoms meet listing 14.09 for Ankylosing Spondylitis. If that is the case, then the SSA will look at your residual functional capacity to see if you can work or not.

The RFC is the finding that defines what you can physically and mentally do in a work setting. It is how the SSA looks at your limits after taking into account all of your AS symptoms.

However, your RFC includes both your physical and mental limits. In terms of physical limits, the SSA tries to define your ability to sit, stand, walk, and lift, during the course of an 8 hour workday. Likewise, the SSA will include your ability to carry, pull, and push. Find out more about how the SSA defines work here. Clearly, the chronic pain and stiffness from AS is going to limit your ability to perform these tasks during an 8 hour work day.

However, the RFC also includes your mental symptoms. If you have anxiety or trouble focusing due to pain from AS, then you need to seek mental health treatment. If despite treatment, your mental symptoms continue, then your records will show why you cannot work.

The medical record will state that you cannot follow instructions or finish tasks due to your pain and anxiety. It might also state your physical limits create depression. Your treatment records are the most important evidence of your AS. If you don’t have health insurance, then go to the free and low cost mental health sources on this website. You can find treatment here. We have won over $100 million in ongoing and back due SSD benefits for our clients. Let us help you too.


If you cannot win benefits by meeting a listing, you can try to win benefits by proving that your AS limits your RFC. In other words, you can try to prove that your OCD symptoms limit you to the point that you cannot work a 40 hour work week.

In order to figure out your mental RFC, the SSA will examine your medical records. They will take into account what your doctor and counselor state in your medical records. Also, the SSA will review any statements from other medical sources and statements from your past boss. Likewise, if they need more information, they may send you to a doctor for an exam. This is called a consultative examination. Learn more here about what to expect at SSA’s consultative exam.

The SSA will also consider descriptions about your limits from your family, neighbors and friends. For example, your family or friends could write a statement about the back pain they have seen you go through. They can talk about your mental symptoms and your pain behaviors. Find out more here about RFC and how it combines with age to eliminate work. Also, find out more about SSA’s Medical Vocational Guidelines here.


You do not need to try to win SSD benefits on your own. Cannon Disability Law can help file your disability application. Also, we can help you file an appeal after every SSA denial. That way, you can focus on your health and spending time with your family. Our attorneys and staff can:

  • Send you the paperwork you need to become our client
  • Help you file your application for SSD and SSI benefits
  • Inform the SSA that the SSA should automatically pay your benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Rules
  • Request reconsideration if you receive an initial denial from Disability Determination Services
  • Help you confirm your attendance at a Consultative Examination
  • Request a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
  • Prepare you to be a good witness at your SSA hearing
  • Represent you at your hearing and question the vocational and medical witnesses.
  • Read more about vocational experts here
  • Learn more about medical expert testimony here
  • Request review of an unfavorable decision with the Appeals Council
  • Request review of an Appeals Council denial in Federal Court

If you file your application for benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. However, if you have a medical condition that automatically wins SSD benefits, you should not wait to finish your application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you an application summary in the mail. You must sign the summary and mail it back.

Additionally, once you receive a denial from the SSA, you have 60 days to file an appeal. You must meet the time limit set by the SSA. If you do not, then you will have to start the process over again. That means you will lose any benefits you could receive on any prior application.


The monthly SSDI amount is different for everyone. However, the average SSDI monthly payment in 2022 is around $1,358. Some people may receive more than that, because during their working years they earned more money. About one in 10 people who receive Social Security benefits get more than $2,000 per month. People with spouses and children also receive more money.

The SSA also pays SSDI benefits to those with a spouse and children. A person with a spouse and children can expect an average monthly payment of around $2,383 in SSDI benefits. Learn more about what your monthly benefit amount is here.

If your AS is so severe that you cannot work, then you should file for SSDI benefits. The amount of money you receive will depend upon the amount of money you have earned during your working years. You can apply for SSDI benefit online at the Social Security’s website. Or, you can contact us and we will help you file your application for AS. We will also help you throughout the Social Security process, so that you have the best chance of winning benefits.


If you need help filing for benefits due to ankylosing spondylitis, reach out to the best SSD law firm, Cannon Disability Law. Also, if you need help finding free or low cost medical care, use the list of free and low cost medical resources on our website. Taking the first step, by calling us, is what you need to do to begin your journey to winning benefits. All you need to do is reach out to our legal team.

Our legal team wants to help you. We offer a free review of your case. What that means is that you can call us and explain your situation. At that point, we will look at the merits of your case for free and let you know if you have a chance to win benefits.

In the past 30 years, we have won millions of dollars in ongoing and past due due benefits for our clients. If you want to win benefits for AS, then you need to hire an attorney with the experience to win your case. Also, you need a lawyer to prove to the SSA that you deserve SSD benefits under their rules.

If you want to learn more about Cannon Disability then read our About Us page. For instance, Andria Summers is an amazing advocate. She can help you with your Medicare plan. She has also won thousands of SSD cases. Dianna Cannon has been helping clients win benefits for thirty years. Brett Bunkall also has years of legal experience helping people obtain their SSI and SSD benefits. We are experts. Our legal team has the experience you need to win your benefits for ankylosing spondylitis. Contact us today. Put our legal experience to work for you.

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