Arthritis and Receiving Disability Benefits

Arthritis is a painful inflammatory condition that causes joint pain. Arthritis can also develop after an injury, from obesity or old age. You probably have an idea as to whether you would or would not qualify for benefits based on your own arthritis symptoms. Before you apply for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits, learn a bit more about what the government looks for in approved claims below.

What Types of Arthritis May Qualify for Social Security Disability?

In 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported doctors diagnosed arthritis among 1 in 4 adults. By 2040, the CDC estimates that 78 million American adults will suffer from it. These are the types and related conditions the Social Security Administration (SSA) lists as qualifying disabilities:

If you can’t walk or only with serious pain and discomfort, then full-time work may be extremely hard for you. In addition, if you can’t hold certain objects, fully move your arms or turn your head, then that’s cause for concern. Every way your arthritis limits your range of motion indicates that you may qualify for disability benefits. In general, the SSA looks for the following specific symptoms when reviewing your arthritis disability claim:

  • Unable to walk easily or effectively without help due to instability in one major weight-bearing joint (i.e., hip, knee or ankle)
  • Cannot hold, carry, pick up or lift certain objects because of joint problems in both arms (i.e., shoulder, elbow, wrist or hand)
  • Trouble standing up from a seated position using just your legs, or without help

Minor arthritis symptoms typically won’t make you eligible for monthly disability. To qualify for SSD payments, your condition must force you to stop working at least 12 months (or be a doctor-diagnosed terminal illness).

Proving You’re Unable to Work Due to Arthritis

Generally, if a major joint below or above your waist causes severe pain and discomfort, that alone isn’t enough. The SSA claims examiner instead wants to know things like:

  1. Can you pick a pencil up off the floor without help if you drop it? If not, then you likely qualify for SSD benefits.
  2. Do you need help walking up or down a few steps? How about across a flat parking lot? If you can’t do either without a cane, that strongly supports your claim.
  3. Can you crouch down and lift an object that weighs 5 lbs? 10 lbs? 25 lbs? If you can’t do any of these, that proves you cannot perform most job tasks.
  4. Does your doctor prescribe pain medication that affects your ability to drive? Stay awake? Operate machinery? If yes, that’s proof to support your arthritis SSD case.
  5. Do you need to alternate sitting and standing or elevate your legs to relieve swollen ankle or knee joints? If yes, you’re more likely to get SSD benefits.

Think of it this way: If you can’t do basic living tasks without help, you likely can’t handle full-time employment. Focus on telling the SSA how your arthritis limits your daily activities, like cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, laundry and other basic tasks. Don’t focus on your pain level in your disability application. Instead, describe how hard it is to look both ways before making an unprotected left turn while driving. Or that you put a ramp next to your bed because you can’t pick your dog up anymore. Or that you use a mobility scooter while grocery shopping because sometimes your knee buckles after standing too long.

If you’re unable to work for one year due to arthritis, you should definitely apply for disability benefits. Did you know that having a Social Security attorney file your claim triples your approval chances in 6 months or less? You can sign up for a free, no-obligation consultation and get confidential legal advice over the phone. If a lawyer helps you apply but the SSA doesn’t approve your claim, then you owe $0 in legal fees. And if you do win benefits, then you only pay a small, one-time fee after your claim’s approved.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.