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A Guide to Disability Benefits and Psoriatic Arthritis

Managing PsA

February 16, 2021

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Ariane Hoehne / EyeEm / Getty Images

Ariane Hoehne / EyeEm / Getty Images

by Elizabeth Millard


Fact Checked by:

Jennifer Chesak, MSJ


by Elizabeth Millard


Fact Checked by:

Jennifer Chesak, MSJ


Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a condition that can be particularly debilitating and painful, causing intense flare-ups that cause joints to be become inflamed.

This can make mobility difficult — sometimes impossible. Not surprisingly, that can affect the ability to work, no matter your profession.

Although people with PsA can have long periods of remission, with few symptoms or even none, the unpredictability of the condition could require extended periods away from a job, or hinder your ability to look for employment.

According to a 2016 study, one-third of people with PsA reported missing work because of their disease, and the condition impacted their ability to work full-time.

Disability insurance may be able to replace some of that income.

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How psoriatic arthritis qualifies for disability benefits

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is a federal disability insurance benefit for those who have paid into Social Security while working.

If you’re in a low-income bracket and haven’t paid enough into Social Security during your working years to qualify for SSDI, you’re not out of luck. In that case, you may be a candidate for a different program called supplemental security income (SSI).

“For both SSDI and SSI, benefits are limited to people who fall under the definition of being unable to perform substantial, gainful activity,” says Liz Supinski, director of data science at the Society for Human Resource Management.

There are limits on how much a person can earn and still collect, she adds — about $1,200 for most people, or around $2,000 per month for blind people.

Some people are covered by private disability insurance, typically acquired through their work, Supinski says.

Having this type of insurance doesn’t disqualify you from receiving SSDI, because it’s usually a short-term benefit with more limited amounts. Because of that, she notes that many people use this insurance to replace income as they’re navigating through the SSDI process.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) categorizes PsA under the classification of immune system impairments, and specifically under sections 14.00D6 and 14.09 as “Inflammatory Arthritis.”

This encompasses a spectrum of inflammatory arthritis conditions, but all with the main challenge of limiting your movements, mainly through joint pain, swelling, and tenderness.

In addition to PsA, this description could include other conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ankylosing spondylitis, and reactive arthritis, also known as Reiter’s syndrome.

The SSA evaluates the severity of the condition in order to approve disability benefits and acknowledges that your PsA may involve other systems as well, such as:

  • musculoskeletal
  • ophthalmologic
  • pulmonary
  • cardiovascular
  • renal
  • hematologic
  • neurologic
  • mental
  • immune system

Because your disability claim is likely to include these types of concerns as well as complications of joint inflammation, it’s essential to have your medical paperwork together, including insights from your primary care doctor and specialists.

You can apply for disability benefits while you’re still employed if your symptoms are significantly impacting your work, although most people tend to apply once they’ve left a position, possibly because of their condition, says Supinski.

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Getting the paperwork in place

Whether you have PsA, a different condition, or a combination of conditions, the process for establishing a disability claim will be much more streamlined if you have a breadth of information already in place, says Michelle Ogunwole, MD, a specialist in internal medicine and research fellow at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“If you’re managing multiple health issues or a chronic condition like psoriatic arthritis, it’s already a good idea to compile your medical info in one place, so you have it available for appointments,” she says.

“That will also give you insight into trends you may not have been seeing before, like possible triggers for a flare-up,” she adds.

If possible, have the following information on hand:

  • lab tests
  • appointment notes
  • date of your original diagnosis
  • medications you’re currently taking and have taken in the past
  • descriptions of impairments
  • dates of work absences due to your condition
  • general work history
  • treatments related to your PsA
  • progression of any symptoms

Also, let your doctors, colleagues, and family know you’ll be going through the application process. The SSA gathers input from healthcare providers as well as the applicant and sometimes asks for additional information from family members and co-workers to determine if you qualify as disabled based on SSA criteria.

The takeaway

Claiming disability benefits can be a complex and lengthy process, but taking the time to understand the criteria used by the SSA can help you get closer to getting a claim approved.

Consider reaching out to representatives at your local SSA field office, since they can help you apply for SSDI and SSI benefits.

Make an appointment by calling 800-772-1213, or you can also complete an application online at the SSA website.

Article originally appeared on February 16, 2021 on Bezzy’s sister site, Healthline. Last medically reviewed on February 15, 2021.

Fact checked on February 16, 2021

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About the author

Elizabeth Millard

Elizabeth Millard lives in Minnesota with her partner, Karla, and their menagerie of farm animals. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including SELF, Everyday Health, HealthCentral, Runner’s World, Prevention, Livestrong, Medscape, and many others. You can find her on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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