The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States.  In recognition of  Arthritis Awareness Month for the month of May 2012 I will focus several blog posts on arthritis and social security disability this month.

In considering arthritis and social security disability it is helpful to understand just what arthritis is.  We often associate arthritis with aging, perhaps remembering grandparents that complained of “rheumatism”.  Osteoarthritis (OA) is  characterized by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints – commonly the knees, feet, hips, and hands.  OA is a predictable and normal result of the aging process, and is typically present to some degree with all persons over the age of 50.

Inflammatory arthritis is a large family of diseases that are minimally related to aging, and are the result of a disease process that can strike young and old alike. More common inflammatory arthritis’ include rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoratic arthritis, gouty arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and spondyloarthropathies.  Fibromyalgia is considered to be a member of the arthritis family, but not considered to be an inflammatory arthritis.

While each of the inflammatory arthritis diseases and OA are unique, and therefore involve different strategies for purposes of securing social security disability benefits, there are many commonalities:

  • Limitations in function – the ability to stand, walk,and sit, and duration of those actvities – is critical.
  • Arthritis is often accompanied by pain even if relatively inactive, which affects the ability to sustain work activity.
  • Arthritis suffers often suffer from depression and anxiety, further eroding the ability to sustain attention and concentration.

In the coming weeks I will focus more specifically on some of the more common forms of arthritis and their treatment under the social security disability process.