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Can I Get Disability For Rheumatoid Arthritis In My Hands, Knees, Feet And Ankles

Rheumatoid arthritis is sometimes called inflammatory arthritis.  Joints are noted to be painful, swollen, stiff and sometimes quite deformed. It can affect many joints of the body including the hands which can lead to difficulty grasping or holding objects as well as problems performing fine fingering such as picking up or pinching small objects, typing and writing.

If arthritis affects joints in the lower extremities such as the knees, hips, feet or ankles, individuals may have problems standing and walking. As a former claims examiner reviewing cases for social security, I understadisability for rheumatoid arthritisnd what information is needed to understand the process involved and possibly improve your chances for receiving benefits.


Doctors at the state level will review all the medical records from your doctors to determine what your functional ability is regarding your ability to walk and use your hands.  They will note  how well you have responded to treatment with medications as well  possible physical therapy.

As an example, your doctor  may state that you are not responding well to treatment and you continue to have difficulty using your hands for daily tasks such as grasping objects, typing or writing. An examination may show swollen and painful fingers. If arthritis affects your knees, hips or feet he may state in the record that you are having difficulty standing and walking.

It is important that x-rays are taken to document that arthritis is shown in the joint . Social security requires that x-rays of the involved joint be done to show that you have what is called a medical determinable impairment.  The state will not accept evidence which simply states that the doctor believes it is arthritis causing your joint pain.  Laboratory tests may confirm the presence of rheumatoid arthritis, but are not critical; what is important are the physical findings and X-rays.


Your doctor should state in his record how arthritis specifically affects your ability to walk and if a cane is needed; also, if your hands are affected he should report if you have difficulty grasping objects, typing and writing.

Another important point which social security requires is that your impairment will last at least 12 months since in some cases you may be quite disabled  initially for perhaps the first several months but then you may show improvement with treatment and possibly be denied.  If your doctor’s medical record is incomplete, the state may require you to undergo a physical examination paid for by the state.

It would be very helpful if your doctor would state in a letter giving very specific information as to how well you can stand and walk and if a cane is medically needed. The state does not consider statements adequate if a doctor merely states  one cannot use their hands very well or that it is difficult to stand and walk very long. Such statements are not detailed enough for the state.

They want very specific information:  For instance:, are you limited to walking  2/8 hours or significantly under 2/8 hours? Also, is a cane is medically needed for pain and balance? Social security wants very specific numbers.  If your hands are involved, what social security wishes to know is how well you can grasp and hold objects as well as pick up small objects, type and write.

If your are denied, you can appeal. If you are still denied you can request a hearing before a judge called an ALJ. It would also be very helpful if you woulld seek the services of a law firm familiar with disability law to help guide you through the entire process since it can be confusing and frustrating.