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OSTEOARTHRITIS AND SSD BENEFITS

WHAT IS OSTEOARTHRITIS?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that covers the ends of your bones wears away. When the cartilage wears away, you feel pain and stiffness in your joints. You may also experience swelling and a burning sensation in your joints. Eventually, muscle weakness and reduced range of joint motion occurs. While osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, it most often is found in the hands, hips, knees, and spine.

The weight-bearing joints are the most common areas of pain due to osteoarthritis. If your osteoarthritis is severe, then you may need surgery. Find out more here about hip replacement surgery and disability benefits. Osteoarthritis can also affect the use of your knees. Find out more here about disability due to knee replacement surgery. Also, if you need information about rheumatoid arthritis, go here.

IS OSTEOARTHRITIS A DISABIITY?

If you have osteoarthritis, you are not alone. Osteoarthritis affects nearly 27 million Americans. According to WebMD, most people over age 60 have osteoarthritis to some degree. However, few people qualify for disability for arthritic pain alone.

Disability occurs when arthritis symptoms reach the point of limiting your ability to walk or use your hands for tasks such as typing. Additionally, osteoarthritis in the lumbar spine (low back) can make it impossible to work at jobs that require the ability to lift, carry, sit, stand or stoop. When you cannot perform simple tasks, such as climbing up stairs or standing for more than 5 minutes in the shower, chances are good you can’t work either.

osteoarthritis Joints diseases. Arthritis, osteoarthritis symptoms, treatment icon set. Medical infographic design. Vector illustration

THE SYMPTOMS OF OSTEOARTHRITIS

Many people have some form of osteoarthritis, particularly if they are older. However, most people are still able to work, because their arthritis is not severe. But over time, you will know if you have severe osteoarthritis due to your pain level and inability to properly use your joints.

If you have severe osteoarthritis that impairs your ability to work, then you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Sore, aching joints
  • Stiffness and pain in the joints after overuse or after periods of inactivity
  • Bony enlargements in the middle and end joints of the fingers and/or toes
  • Crepitus in the joint
  • Loss of joint flexibility
  • Joint deformity

CAUSES OF OSTEOARTHRITIS

There are several factors that increase the risk for developing osteoarthritis.

GENETICS

Some people have a genetic defect in one of the genes responsible for making collagen. Because collagen is a major component of cartilage, they suffer from defective cartilage. This defect leads to rapid deterioration of joints.

Some people are born with an abnormality of the spine, such as spinal scoliosis. If you have scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine, then you will be more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the spine.

OBESITY

Obesity increases your risk of developing osteoarthritis. If you are able to maintain a healthy weight, it will put less stress on your joints. Losing excess weight can help you avoid osteoarthritis. It can also decrease the progression of osteoarthritis that has already started.

INJURY AND OVERUSE

Injuries can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis. For example, if you fall and injure your hip, knee, or back, then there is a greater chance of developing osteoarthritis at the injury site later in life.

Additionally, overuse of your joints can increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. For example, jobs requiring repeated knee bending increase the risk for osteoarthritis of the knee. Likewise, jobs that require repeated use of the hands or shoulders, such as factory work, can increase the chances of deterioration in those joints.

HOW DOES A DOCTOR DIAGNOSE OSTEOARTHRITIS?

Your doctor may use X-rays to confirm your osteoarthritis diagnosis. The doctor will also want to rule out other types of arthritis. X-rays will show how much joint damage your have.

Also, if you have excess fluid in your joints, your doctor may remove some fluid. This is called a joint aspiration. Once the fluid is removed, your doctor will examine it under a microscope to rule out other diseases. There is no blood test to diagnose osteoarthritis. However, your doctor may perform some blood tests in order to rule out other types of arthritis.

TREATMENT FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS

Osteoarthritis is usually treated by reducing stress on the joints. This can be done with losing weight and avoiding painful activity. Typically, your doctor will prescribe pain medications and tell you to apply ice or heat to your painful joint sites. Some doctors use joint injections to help with pain. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy. Surgery is only done in cases that are severe. If you cannot use your joint due to pain or deformity, then your doctor may prescribe surgery.

Glucosamine chondroitin is a supplement that you can take for osteoarthritis. Also, many people take over the counter prescriptions, such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen or Aspiring. Ask you doctor to find a medication that is right for you.

Exercise is also a good way to improve joint movement and to strengthen the muscles that surround the joints. Most physicians recommend gentle, low-impact exercises. For example, swimming or walking are good low impact exercises. These types of exercise are less painful and more healthy for your joints.

WINNING SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS

After you submit your application, Social Security sends your file to your state’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office. Next, a claims examiner  requests and reviews your medical records. They may then call you for an interview or send you additional paperwork. They may also send you to an examination for your osteoarthritis. Find out more about consultative examinations here.

When the claims examiner has enough information, Social Security will make a decision about your disability status and notify you by mail. This normally takes three to four months at each stage of the disability process. But, but it can take longer.

If you receive a denial letter or you think your case is strong enough to win on appeal, consider contacting a disability lawyer. Applicants who go to an appeal hearing with a lawyer have a better approval rate than applicants who represent themselves.

DISABILITY BENEFITS UNDER SSA’S LISTING 1.17

The SSA uses a list of disabilities to find you eligible for disability benefits. If you have all of the criteria on the list, then you can “meet” the listing. The SSA will compare your symptoms to those on the list to determine your benefit eligibility. The following listing 1.17 is one that the SSA might use to determine your disability status.

Listing 1.17 – Reconstructive surgery or surgical arthrodesis of a major weight-bearing joint (see 1.00H), documented by A, B, and C:

A. History of reconstructive surgery or surgical arthrodesis of a major weight-bearing joint.

AND

B. Impairment-related physical limitation of musculoskeletal functioning that has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

AND

C. A documented medical need (see 1.00C6a) for a walker, bilateral canes, or bilateral crutches (see 1.00C6d) or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of both hands (see 1.00C6e(i)).

INABILITY TO AMBULATE IS CRUCIAL TO DISABILITY

As you can see from listing 1.17, the SSA is focusing on the ability to walk without assistance after a hip replacement operation. The SSA is looking at whether you need a walker or bilateral canes or crutches. If you need these assistive devices, then you must use both hands on the device in order to walk.

If you cannot keep your balance without the use of a walker or the use of two crutches, then it is likely you meet the listing. Therefore, you would be eligible for disability benefits by meeting listing 1.17.

DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR JOINT DYSFUNCTION UNDER LISTING 1.18

Another listing that the SSA uses to determine if you are eligible for disability benefits is Listing 1.18. If you have osteoarthritis in your hips, knees, ankles, or shoulders you might meet the listing for abnormality of a major joint.

Listing 1.18 focuses on abnormal motion or instability of a major joint, like the hip. However, to meet the listing, you need more than pain, stiffness, and abnormal motion in the hip joint. You must also meet the durational criteria. In other words, the symptoms must last longer than 12 months.

Additionally, you must also have difficulty walking. You will need to use, for example, two canes or a walker in order to assist you in walking. Other examples of limitations brought on by joint abnormality are below:

Listing 1.18 Abnormality of a major joint(s) in any extremity (see 1.00I), documented by A, B, C, and D:

A. Chronic joint pain or stiffness.

AND

B. Abnormal motion, instability, or immobility of the affected joint(s).

AND

C. Anatomical abnormality of the affected joint(s) noted on:

1. Physical examination (for example, subluxation, contracture, or bony or fibrous ankylosis); or

2. Imaging (for example, joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis or arthrodesis of the affected joint).

AND

D. Impairment-related physical limitation of musculoskeletal functioning that has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months, and medical documentation of at least one of the following:

1. A documented medical need (see 1.00C6a) for a walker, bilateral canes, or bilateral crutches (see 1.00C6d) or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of both hands (see 1.00C6e(i)); or

2. An inability to use one upper extremity to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements (see 1.00E4), and a documented medical need (see 1.00C6a) for a one-handed, hand-held assistive device (see 1.00C6d) that requires the use of the other upper extremity or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of one hand (see 1.00C6e(ii)); or

3. An inability to use both upper extremities to the extent that neither can be used to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements (see 1.00E4).

OSTEOARTHRITIS AND RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY LIMITATIONS

If you have osteoarthritis but you don’t meet the criteria under SSA’s listings, then the Social Security Administration will look at your “residual functional capacity” or “RFC.” The SSA will perform an RFC assessment to determine what kind of work you can still due despite your physical limitations from osteoarthritis. Learn more on our website about how you can win your disability case with your residual functional capacity.

OSTEOARTHRITIS IN THE LOWER EXTREMITIES:

If your arthritis affects your legs, knees, or your lumbar spine, then you are likely having difficulty walking, standing, climbing stairs, kneeling, stooping, and squatting.

If that is the case, your RFC assessment may limit you to no more than sedentary work. Sedentary work is desk work. Work where you need to sit up to six hours in an eight hour work day. Typically, in sedentary work, you are not required to lift more than 10 pounds. The difficulty with sedentary work is that due to osteoarthritis, you may not be able to sit for so many hours. Likewise, you may have trouble walking the other two hours of the workday.

OSTEOARTHRITIS IN THE UPPER EXTREMITIES:

Osteoarthritis in your elbows, shoulders, or hands, can impair your residual functional capacity. Many jobs require you to lift, type, write, push/pull, or grab and twist objects. If you cannot preform these work tasks due to your osteoarthritis, then you may not be able to perform any job. If you are over 50 years old, the SSA should find you disabled if you cannot use your hands on more than an occasional basis and you are also limited to sedentary work. Find out more about the Medical Vocational Guidelines here.

CANNON DISABILITY HELPS YOU WIN YOUR OSTEOARTHRITIS CASE

If you cannot work due to osteoarthritis, then Cannon Disability Law can help you apply for SSD and SSI benefits. Also, we can help you appeal an SSA denial. Additionally, we will represent you in court at your disability hearing. We will help you be a witness in your case. If necessary, we can appeal your case to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council is an appeal board that reviews cases throughout the entire country. Find out more here about the Appeals Council.

Likewise, we file appeals in Federal Court. Also, we can represent you no matter where where you live. For example, we can represent you if need a disability attorney in Utah or Nevada. Additionally, we can help you if you live in Idaho, Colorado, or California.

Your ability to receive Medicaid and Medicare depends upon whether or not you are successful with your disability claim. You are going to need health insurance to care for your osteoarthritis.

In order to fight the SSA’s denials, you need a representative with experience. Hire us. Dianna Cannon has been representing people with disabilities for over thirty years. Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers have many years of litigation experience. Together, we have won over 20,000 disability hearings. You can trust us. We will do everything we can to win your SSD and SSI benefits.

HOW WILL YOU PAY THE ATTORNEY FEE?

We will use our legal skills to help you through the disability process. It is our goal to win your case. But, it also our goal to make applying for disability benefits easier for you. We offer a free consultation. If you call, then there is no obligation to become a client. You can simply ask questions. We will answer. Even if we don’t accept representation in your case, we will still try to help you.

It also doesn’t cost you any upfront money to hire us. Why? Because you only pay us an attorney fee if we win your case. This is a contingency fee. It means if we win, you pay us out of your back benefits. If you do not win, you do not pay an attorney fee. How much is the fee? It is 25% of your back benefit. Also, there is a fee cap set at $6000 by the SSA. You never pay more than the fee cap at the hearing stage of your case. And, 25% of your back benefit is usually less than the $6000 cap. You will pay whatever is the lesser amount and only if we win the case.

CONTACT US FOR YOUR FREE CONSULTATION

If there are costs in your case, then you pay for those costs. But the costs are usually less than $100. Typically, if a doctor charges for copies of your medical records, then that is your bill to pay. We also have a small office fee that covers expenses we incur for your case. However, that fee is also less than $100.

There are costs in every case. You will owe the costs in your case whether we win or lose your case. However, your attorney fees come from your back benefit. You only pay an attorney fee if we win your case. You owe no attorney fee if we do not win benefits for you.

Hiring an attorney with experience to represent you in your disability case is the smartest thing you can do to help yourself. Contact us today and take advantage of our free consultation. Find out more about the representatives that can help you on our About Us page. We want to be your disability legal team.

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