ERISA & Social Security Disability: Southern California Lawyers
Disability Benefits for Ankylosing Spondylitis:
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a little less common than rheumatoid arthritis, affecting less than 1% of the population. The TV-personality Ed Sullivan had ankylosing spondylitis. It affects men three times more often than women, and it usually begins at an early age, between the ages of 15 and 30.
It is an inflammatory arthritis of the spine, often starting in the low back area and in the sacroiliac (SI) joints. It is associated with a “disease susceptibility” gene, called HLA-B27 antigen.
What are the Disabling Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis?
AS primarily causes back pain and stiffness, leading to progressively increased restriction in the range of motion of the back and to decreased flexibility of the spine. The damage to the spine is caused by inflammation, which leads to bone spurs (called “syndesmophytes”), and eventually to bony fusion of the SI joints and parts of or even the entire spine.
The disabling features of AS are primary related to the chronic pain, stiffness, and permanently restricted range of motion of the spine. In addition to back pain, AS can also cause other joints, such as the hips, knees, and shoulders, to become arthritic. It can cause inflammation of the eyes (iritis or uveitis), and it can be associated with other HLA-B27 positive disorders, such as psoriatic arthritis and an arthritis related to colitis (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease).
What Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?
The cause of AS has not been precisely defined, but it is felt by most medical researchers to be a combination of environmental (e.g., infectious) and genetic factors (inherited disease-susceptibility genes).
Confirming the Diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis
To successfully qualify for a disability award, you must first show that you have a confirmed diagnosis of AS. This usually requires x-rays of your spine that show sacroiliitis (inflammation of the SI joints) and other radiographic findings, which may include syndesmophytes and/or elements of bony fusion.
Blood testing generally shows a positive HLA-B27 antigen in about 90% of cases of AS and helps to confirm the diagnosis. However, you can still be diagnosed with AS even if your HLA-B27 antigen is negative. Remember, that this is a “disease-susceptibility” test. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have AS if you are positive, or that you don't have it, if you are negative. A rheumatologist is typically an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of AS, and that's the kind of doctor that will be able to help you the most.
What Must You Show to be Eligible for Disability Benefits?
After your diagnosis of AS has been confirmed by your doctor, with objective evidence of the disease by x-rays and laboratory testing, then your doctor must document in your medical records that you have symptoms such as chronic pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in your spine that prevent you from working by restricting your functional capacityto sit, stand, walk, lift or carry.
Confirming the diagnosis of AS and documenting its symptoms (back pain, stiffness, and restricted range of motion), while obviously important, is not enough to qualify for disability benefits.
Your doctor must also document the effect your symptoms have on your ability to work, by documenting the most weight you can lift/carry in an 8-hour work day, and how long you can walk/stand or sit.
Describe Your Limitations to Your Doctor
A critical factor is: How does your condition affect you? Be specific to include details of your physical limitations and how they impact you on a daily basis with regard to your daily living activities, your ability to stand/walk, lift/carry, and even sit for extended periods of time. These are important factors and details regarding your functional capacity and important details to articulate.