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Can you qualify for disability benefits with psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis is a complicated, painful condition that affects a victim's skin, joints, fingers and other body parts.

But, does having psoriatic arthritis qualify as a disability under the rules used by the Social Security Administration (SSA)? Like most questions involving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the best possible answer is, "It depends." A number of different factors have to be evaluated once you file a claim, including your age, your educational level, your prior work history, the severity of your condition, the length of time you have been ill, any co-morbid conditions you have and what treatments you have already tried.

Here are some things you should know before you file for psoriatic arthritis:

  • Psoriasis is considered the most common autoimmune disease in the country, affecting 2.2 percent of Americans. However, only 30 percent (or less) will develop the debilitating arthritis that goes along with it. In some cases, psoriasis will develop after the symptoms of arthritis.
  • It often attacks patients who are still fairly young, mostly those between 30 and 50 years of age.
  • Social Security typically looks at your condition in terms of the damage it has done your large joints, such as weight-bearing joints like hips, ankles and knees. Examiners will also consider the problems you have with shoulders, wrists and elbows. The way it affects your spine can also be an important factor. Those issues can often be shown through x-rays and other clinical lab tests.
  • Severe fatigue, chronic pain, fevers, skin infections, unexplained weight loss, difficulty sleeping and trouble ambulating are all factors that should be addressed in your application for benefits. It's important to list each distinct symptom you have on your application -- rather than relying on the idea that examiners will know you have these issues based on your diagnosis.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when filing for disability benefits is assuming that the disability examiners are familiar with and understand the implications of their diagnosis. They do not. If you want to be approved, approach your application as if you are describing your condition to someone who has never heard of psoriatic arthritis before.

It often makes sense to get experienced help with your Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income application. Filing for benefits is a long, complicated process -- and mistakes can set you back months or years.

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