First of all, make sure that when you refer to your arthritis that you make it clear that this is not osteoarthritis, this is a form of inflammatory arthritis. Again, if you know specifically which kind, make mention about it. Is it rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis? Whatever type it is. Sometimes your doctor may not know. I had a case recently where the doctor was kind of going back and forth. Is this psoriatic arthritis? Is this rheumatoid arthritis? She wasn’t really sure, but she kept saying it’s one or the other. If you’re not sure, certainly mention both of those but make sure you set out that this is inflammatory arthritis, a disease process, and this is not osteoarthritis. I think if you’ve got inflammatory arthritis, the judge is going to expect symptoms that are clearly visible either to the naked eye or to diagnostic testing. Again, this would be things like deformity of the joints, swelling, redness, rashes, things that a doctor’s going to notice and make reference of in the record. If you’ve got these things, make sure to tell your doctor. Sometimes, for example, if the rashes are in areas of your body that are normally clothed, make sure that the doctor is aware of that.
I had a case again where my client had rashes under her breasts and in her thighs. She, of course, told the doctor about it, but again, someone else might not tell the doctor, wouldn’t get into the records. It’s really important to mention those and make sure it gets in the record. The medications that you’re given for inflammatory arthritis typically are pretty strong. A lot of cases, like methotrexate, they are actually almost like cancer drugs. Typically, have very bad side effects that can be nausea, vomiting, hair loss, weight loss, that type of thing. You may have infusions where you basically have to an IV drip that may take a couple of hours. The medications have side effects. The effects may not last very long, so I would keep a very clean and consistent list of all the medications that you’ve taken and how long it effected you.
Whether they were side effects, whether you had allergic reactions, that type of thing because again, you want to point out that the judge will probably know this, but you still want to point it out that the drugs typically given for inflammatory arthritis are very powerful and quite often have serious side effects. One of those side effects, by the way, is often fatigue. I’ve had clients tell me that one of the side effects of not just the arthritis, but the medications, is they are extremely tired. They need to take rest breaks during the course of the day or they need to sit in a hot tub for hours at a time to try to give themselves some relief. If those are situations you’re dealing with, make sure to mention it to your doctor. Make sure to testify about that and keep notes that you can testify that about when you are at a hearing. I also want to talk about what are called “activities of daily living”.
Meaning, does your arthritis prevent you from getting dressed or bathing? From doing your hair or brushing your teeth, things like that. These are all things that really represent a severe case of inflammatory arthritis. If it’s effecting your activities of daily living, make sure that you mention that and make sure that you think about that ahead of time. Don’t think of it for the first time at your hearing. In your pre-hearing conference with your lawyer and your preparation on your own, think about those things around the house that you cannot do. For example, I had a client who talked about that she could put dirty clothes in the washing machine, but not take them out, because when they were wet, they were too heavy.
She couldn’t grip things, she couldn’t unload the dishwasher, just things like that. Just normal everyday things you may not think about because it’s just part of your life now. You need to make sure you make note of it and tell the judge. It’s OK to prepare and make notes for yourself, so when you go to your hearing, you have a piece of paper there with those notes in front of you. I think the final thing I will tell you about inflammatory arthritis is that typically it’s progressive, meaning that it gets worse over time. In many cases, with rheumatoid arthritis for example, you may be diagnosed 20 years ago. You may have worked, gone to school, and gave some various activities for the past 20 years and at some point in the last two or three years, it got to the point where you simply could not work anymore. You need to be prepared to explain to the judge when it got really bad, what happened to make it really bad. Was there some sort of a crisis? Did you fall? Was there some sort stress in your life? After you stopped working, did you try to get some sort of a lighter job? Were you not successful? Did you get special considerations at work? All these things so you can identify a specific time where your condition got so bad that you could not do any kind of work.
Again, remember, disability is about work capacity. It’s not about just your past work, but any kind of work at all. Those are some thoughts I had about inflammatory arthritis. I hope this has been helpful. Again, my name is Jonathan Ginsberg. I am a Social Security disability attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. If you have an questions, please feel free to get in touch with me. Thanks a lot, and I’ll talk to you soon. [music].
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