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Osteoarthritis and degenerative arthritis can cause pain and stiffness in one or more joints and in the spine. This kind of illness usually impairs the ability of the affected joint to bend and twist and to carry weight. Arthritis in small or non-weight bearing joints will rarely lead to a finding of disability. On the other hand, arthritis that does not respond to treatment in a major joint, such as a knee or the back, can prevent you from working if physical labor like walking, lifting and bending  is required at your job. Pain and stiffness in the back and knees can also interfere with your ability to sit for prolonged periods. The inability to perform these exertional activities can be the basis for a claim for disability but your age will also be a significant factor. People who are 50 years of age and older are more likely to qualify for disability benefits on the basis of this kind of arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis – and other auto-immune disorders - are recognized by the SSA as disabling because they can cause not only pain and stiffness but also symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, fever and involuntary weight loss.  The Social Security Administration recognizes that people with auto immune disorders can present a wide variety of symptoms resulting from the underlying illness and they are required to consider the combined effect of all of the symptoms in determining disability.

Although new drugs have been developed which can effectively treat some of these disorders, many people do not have the financial ability to obtain the new medications. Ordinarily, the Social Security Administration will expect you to make every effort to obtain and comply with treatment for your illness. If you cannot afford to buy the medications and you have made every effort to obtain them, however, the Social Security Administration must take that into account.

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