The pain and stiffness in your hands, knees or other joints may have been the first sign. Perhaps you couldn’t shake the fatigue or just felt unwell. When your doctor finally diagnosed you with rheumatoid arthritis, it may not have been a surprise. Probably someone close to you, such as a parent or grandparent, also suffered from this debilitating disease.

Once you received a definitive diagnosis of RA, you may have felt as if the clock were ticking. About 35% of those who suffer from RA are no longer able to work within 10 years of receiving their diagnosis. For many, this means seeking financial assistance wherever they can, including applying for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. If you feel you may be close to the time when your RA will prevent you from working, you may have many questions about Social Security Disability Insurance.

Preparing to seek disability benefits

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease of the autoimmune system, which means it can affect many organs in your body with painful and debilitating inflammation. You may find that it is becoming more difficult to perform your job-related tasks efficiently and safely, and you may have trouble with daily tasks at home as well. Do you need help doing the laundry? Are you no longer able to cook your own meals? Perhaps you even struggle to get yourself washed and dressed every day.

These are signs that you may be eligible for disability benefits, but you will still have to go through the long and complex application process through the SSA. This involves completing the application, preparing for an interview and providing the appropriate documentation, including:

  • A report from your rheumatologist
  • Any other medical reports related to your condition
  • X-rays, blood work, MRIs and other tests
  • Details about any therapy or medications you have tried, including any holistic methods of relief
  • Documentation of your declining abilities since you first received your diagnosis
  • Pictures of the affected areas of your body

SSDI benefits are for those who are unable to work in any capacity, not only in the jobs they have typically worked in the past. If you have any residual abilities and your pain level and medications allow it, you may be able to find gainful employment, which would disqualify you from eligibility for SSDI. However, you would be wise to discuss your case with a California attorney who can help you prepare your application and advocate for your best interests throughout the process.