Where to Turn When Crippling Arthritis Keeps You From Working and the SSA Denies Your Disability Claim
Arthritis can cause crippling pain as a result of excessive inflammation and grinding of the joints. Sometimes the term “crippling” is overused, however, when it comes to arthritis, “crippling” is an understatement. In addition to unbearable pain, the degeneration of cartilage and the swelling of tissue around the joints can lead to stiffness, immobility, and physical deformities. These effects can then lead to an inability to perform even simple tasks, much less complex work duties.
Arthritis and Disability
Over 50 million adults and 300,000 children in the United States suffer from some form of arthritis—most commonly in the fingers, wrists, knees, and back. This alarming number of sufferers makes arthritis the number one cause of disability in the nation.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes inflammatory arthritis as a disabling condition and classifies it within its immune deficiency listings. To approve an arthritis claim, the SSA must determine that the claimant’s condition prohibits his ability to be a dependable employee by:
- Limiting his ability to perform daily living activities.
- Limiting his ability to function independently in social gatherings.
- Limiting his ability to complete tasks promptly.
If the arthritis claim satisfies the requirements for disability, the SSA board will consider it for approval. However, if a claim does not meet the board’s standards, it could very well be rejected.
When a claim is rejected, the SSA board will send a denial letter to the claimant, specifically addressing the inconsistencies or factors that disqualified the claim. Receiving this letter doesn't necessarily mean that you're ineligible to receive benefits. In many cases, the board just requires additional information and evidence that proves the severity of the condition and need for assistance. This is where the appeal process comes into play.
There are four levels of appeal for which a denied claim may be eligible—generally, the denial letter will recommend the best option based on previous claim information. The levels are as follows:
- Reconsideration. A completely new review of your claim by a different board member. This appeal will require you to resend your application and any evidence (old and new) that you wish to be reviewed.
- Hearing by an administrative law judge. If your denial already included a reconsideration appeal, you can still contest the findings by requesting a hearing. During the hearing you’ll be allowed to present new evidence and clarify your claim’s inconsistencies to an administrative law judge. It’s important to have all of your facts straight, as this judge will have had no prior knowledge of your claim and will ask you direct questions about your condition and need for benefits. Once the hearing is complete, the judge will make his ruling based on the provided evidence and testimonies.
- Review by the Appeals Council. If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you can still contest the denial by requesting a review by the SSA Appeals Council. If the council chooses to review your claim, it will investigate the initial application and any new evidence, as well as the judge’s decision (including any notes he made to justify the denial). Once reviewed, the council will either override the decision, send the claim back to another judge for further review, or uphold the original verdict.
- Federal Court review. Your final option for a verdict reversal is to file a lawsuit with the Federal Court. If your request is approved, you’ll have the opportunity to argue your case to a judge and jury. For arthritis cases, being physically able to show the effects of your condition can go a long way in persuading the verdict in your favor.
Work With Keefe Law This Time Around
If you’ve been denied disability, even though your arthritis physically prevents you from being able to work, contact our office. One click of your mouse can secure the representation you need to navigate the process and get your voice heard. John Keefe has acquired the skills and knowledge to make your appeal work for you with over 20 years of experience under his belt. Schedule your FREE consultation today to begin taking advantage of his hard work.