Long-Term Disability and RA: A Claimant’s Guide

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack its own tissues, can lead to debilitating side effects for those who suffer from it. In fact, according to a 2008 study, 35% of RA sufferers are unable to work within 10 years of their initial diagnosis.

But does this mean you qualify for disability benefits? In some cases, yes—but your condition, evidence, and insurance will all determine your eligibility. By calling an experienced long-term disability attorney, you can fight back if the insurance company unfairly denies your claim.

If you or a loved one are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and need help building a successful long-term disability claim, call the team at Bryant Legal Group. Our law firm specializes in disability law and is ready to help you get the benefits you deserve.

In this article, we will cover common qualifications, symptoms, challenges, and helpful tips for claiming RA disability benefits to help you build the strongest case possible.

Common Disabling Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that causes significant pain and interferes with the activities of daily living for those who suffer from it. Although it’s generally considered a form of inflammatory arthritis, RA can affect a wide range of body systems—not just joints.

However, RA symptoms tend to ebb and flow as time goes on. The variable nature of RA makes disability cases more difficult to prove, and often leads to anxiety for those who apply for disability benefits.

It is important to monitor your symptoms and get an official diagnosis of your medical condition before filing a claim, as these pieces of evidence will be key for your success. Using x-rays, MRIs, and blood tests, your doctor can determine the exact nature of your condition.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, seek professional medical advice from a rheumatologist:

  • Joint pain in hands and feet
  • Pain during motion
  • Swelling and tenderness in one or more joints
  • Restricted movements of the affected part
  • Joint damage or deformity of the affected parts (contractures)
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness and tingling in the hand or arm
  • Osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become weak and brittle)
  • Muscle weakness

Although many of these symptoms would not necessarily be considered disabilities in and of themselves, a combination of symptoms associated with a high enough level of impairment could qualify you for disability benefits. Once again, receiving an official diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis from a qualified physician will greatly strengthen your case.

How RA Medication Side Effects Affect Disability Claims

When filing a long-term disability claim, something that many fail to consider are the potential side effects from RA medication. Although not a given, there is always a chance that medication may cause disabling effects. This is something your insurance company is required to consider during the claim process.

A medication that causes extreme fatigue, drowsiness, or other disabling conditions can lead to a higher likelihood of your disability benefits being approved. Insurance companies cannot fault you for actively taking your medication, even if the medication leads to further disability at work. Be sure to make note of what medication you are prescribed, as well as any side effects you experience while taking it.

disability and ra

When Does RA Qualify for Long-Term Disability Benefits?

To qualify for long-term disability benefits for RA, you will need to prove that your RA prevents you from performing your job duties. This will require you to receive an official diagnosis, present extensive medical evidence, gather medical records, and explain your level of disability.

Another complicating factor: the definition of disability can vary from policy to policy. Make sure you take a close look at your policy before filing to prevent any potential heartbreak.

For some long-term disability policies, the definition of disability falls under one of two definitions:

  1. Your job: Also known as “own occupation” coverage, this means you must only prove that you are unable to perform your everyday duties in your current position.
  2. Any job: Also known as “any occupation” coverage; as the title suggests, to qualify for benefits you must prove your inability to perform any job at all. This is a much harder ask.

Be careful when filing, as a claim based around a “your job” definition is likely to fail if a policy uses “any job” guidelines. Carefully review your policy and consider seeking help from an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the legalese of your contract, build a case around your qualifier, and gather evidence to prove your condition.

Does the Social Security Administration Give Social Security Disability Benefits for RA?

When it comes to social security disability insurance (SSDI), the qualifications are stricter due to the government oversight that controls social security benefits. To qualify for social security disability, you will need to meet the social security administration’s (SSA) specific levels of disability. The SSA will take many factors into account, including age, occupation, work experience, and education.

While Bryant Legal Group doesn’t handle standalone social security disability claims, we would be happy to help with a combination of disability claims that include social security benefits, or to refer you to a qualified social security disability attorney.


An “Invisible Disability”: Challenges with RA Claims

Due to the nature of rheumatoid arthritis, disability claims and medical diagnoses can be difficult to obtain. RA is sometimes considered an “invisible disability,” which means that there are not always observable symptoms that will help support your claim. Your insurance company will likely look for proof of contractures, the shortening or hardening of muscles or other tissue, to accept your claim.

If you are not experiencing contractures, it will be much more difficult to prove the severity of your condition. Insurance companies will often take these claims are your word versus theirs and will do whatever they can to protect their bottom line. This makes an official diagnosis of your medical condition especially important if the full extent of your symptoms are not externally observable.

How to Strengthen Your RA Claim

While there is no one silver bullet that will guarantee the success of your disability benefits claim, there are several simple measures you can take to increase the likelihood of receiving benefits. To strengthen your claim, take time to document and follow these steps in your disability journey:

  • Be consistent with your rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and record your progress
  • Faithfully follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations
  • Document all medications or treatment methods you’re prescribed
  • Call an experienced disability lawyer to look over evidence, your policy, and review your claim before filing

By following these steps, you will show your insurance company that you are committed to your recovery and have performed due diligence in following your treatment protocols. Contacting a lawyer will also help remove the burden of legal work from you and your loved one’s shoulders. An experienced attorney can handle the hard work while you focus on your recovery.

Bryant Legal Group: Chicago’s Premier Disability Law Firm

At Bryant Legal Group, we have spent years fighting for the rights of disability claimants across the country. Our team of experienced disability attorneys are here to help guide you through the disability benefits application process, communicate with the insurance company, and fight back against unfair denials. We know the pitfalls that can cause claimants to lose out on benefits they deserve and are here to help you avoid them.

If you or a loved one are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and are seeking disability benefits, call an experienced disability advocate at Bryant Legal Group. Contact us today or call us at (312) 561-3010 to schedule your free consultation.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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