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Disability Benefits for Osteoarthritis (OA)

What is osteoarthritis (OA)?

Osteoarthritis is a disease that damages the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. This allows bones to rub together. The rubbing causes pain, swelling, and loss of motion of the joint. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape.

The condition can cause bone spurs to grow on the edges of the joint. Bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, which causes more pain and damage.

Unlike some other forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects only joints and not internal organs. It is the most common type of arthritis.

Points To Remember About Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoarthritis is a disease that damages the slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. This allows bones to rub together, causing pain and stiffness.
  • Osteoarthritis occurs most often in older people. Younger people sometimes get the disease after joint injuries.
  • No single test can diagnose osteoarthritis. Doctors use several methods to diagnose the disease and rule out other problems.
  • Treatments for osteoarthritis include medicines, nondrug pain relief techniques, surgery, and alternative therapies.
  • Exercise, weight control, and other self-care activities can help you live with osteoarthritis.
What are the symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint. It occurs most often in the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Warning signs are:

  • Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time.
  • Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints.
  • A crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone.

Reference: https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/osteoarthritis

Essential Medical Documentation of OA for Disability Benefits Needed:
  • How far can you walk?
  • How long can you stand? Do you need a cane/walker to ambulate?
  • How much can you lift and carry? 
  • Do you have difficulty reaching, bending, squatting, stooping? Describe.
  • What is your average daily pain level?
  • Do you have grabbing or grasping difficulty (dropping things)?
  • What medications do you take for pain tolerance? Side effects of medication?
  • Do you have objective tests confirming OA such as X-Rays/MRIs
  • Do you have swelling, pain on examination?
  • Are you doing physical therapy?

SSA utilizes the term "Impairments" (and resulting "limitations" - why you cannot work) are the essential bits of information that must be clearly and consistently documented throughout your medical history by the treating sources (medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists).

SSA additionally utilizes the term "Residual Functional Capacity" (RFC); this is a key concept related to the resulting physical and/or mental impairments from conditions for which the disability claim is based upon and the impact upon ability to work. 

SSA has its own forms that are used for Physical RFC here and for Mental RFC here. These forms can be filled out by the treating source who has the opportunity to examine the patient and understand the limitations which result from his/her condition and thereby document with specificity in the language of SSA disability.

Your disablity lawyer must work closely with your treating physician to get the proper documentation of your specific findings and impairments into the medical records. At Law Med that's what we do.

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