August 27, 2014

57 Year Old Arthritis Patient Wonders if She Would Qualify for Disability

I am 57 I have been a RN for the past 30 yrs.  I have auto immune arthritis which is severe in my SI joints graded 3+ bilaterally.  I also arthritis in my hands, wrist, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet and ankles.  Along with DMII, IBS, Bilateral Carpal Tunnel, Bilateral Heel Spurs. My dominant hand is now becoming weak and painful to the point, I am having to learn how to redo ADL’s with my non dominant hand.  I can’t sit, stand or lay or long periods of time, I rarely sleep more than 3 hours at a time due to numbness or pain in a joint. I just recently stopped working.

Where would I fit on the Grid, or do I have to suck up the pain and continue to try and work. I only have enough reserves to last me 7-8 months. Thanks for your opinion.
–C

Jonathan Ginsberg responds:  C, thank you for your question.  I am not so sure that the grids would apply here.  Firstly the grids only apply when there is an exertional (physical) impairment.  Here you have both exertional and non-exertional (pain) impairments.   It would appear to me that pain is such a major part of your claim that you could not argue that your limitations are purely exertional.

Second, and most important, the grids factor in education and transferrable skills.  Look at the grid tables.  Even at age 57, an individual limited to sedentary (sit down) work is “not disabled” if she has transferrable skills or more than a high school education.

I think that a better argument would be a straight “residual functional capacity” argument.  Please also take a look at my Arthritis and Disability article on my Georgia Social Security disability web site.  I would focus on reliability issues and limited capacity to get through a workday in any form of competitive employment.

Your 30 year work history also gives you tremendous credibility.  You always want to approach your SSDI claim with the attitude that “I would work if I could, but I can’t” and not an attitude of “entitlement.”

Based on what you write, it appears to me that you have a good case.  You need to enlist your treating doctors for support but I would be surprised if you did not get approved.

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 23 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.