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Rheumatoid Arthritis, Work, and Disability

Understanding the impact RA can have on the workplace and your career.

What if I can't work and need to apply for disability?

You may qualify for disability benefits from Social Security if you are unable to do any substantial work and your medical condition has lasted at least one year. You can apply online by going to You may also call your local Social Security office to make an appointment and obtain the forms. Phone numbers for local offices are provided on the Social Security web site.

What type of documentation do I need to get Social Security disability benefits?

To apply for disability benefits, you will need to complete an application for Social Security Benefits and an Adult Disability Report. The report collects detailed information about your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. Again, you can find all the requirements online or get the information by phone from your local Social Security office.

When you apply, you'll need to have many items ready. Some examples include:

  • your doctors' names and addresses
  • a list of the medicines you're using
  • your birth certificate
  • your latest tax returns
  • worker's compensation information
  • checking and savings account numbers
  • the Social Security numbers of your spouse and minor children

You could also be asked to take a medical test or have an examination. Just having a doctor say you are disabled doesn't mean that the Social Security administration will determine that you are disabled. To determine disability, you must be unable to do any substantial work due to your medical condition(s) and the medical conditions must be expected to last, or have lasted at least a year, or be expected to result in your death.

Decisions about disability qualification are generally made in three to five months. Sometimes, though, it takes more than one application. If your request for disability benefits is turned down, you may appeal the decision, in which case you may need to hire an attorney.

Reviewed on May 19, 2009

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