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If you suffer from joint pain or joint damage, you may be eligible for North Carolina Social Security disability benefits. Common sources of joint pain include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and trauma to the joint. To qualify for benefits, you must demonstrate that your impairment either (1) meets or medically equals a Listing impairment, or (2) so severely limits your ability to function that you are not able to work.
The Listing for major dysfunction of a joint requires that you have:
- Major dysfunction of a joint due to any cause;
- Characterized by gross anatomical deformity; and
- Chronic joint pain and stiffness; with
- Signs of limitation of motion or other abnormal motion of the affected joint(s); and
- Medically acceptable findings demonstrating joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis (immobilization) of the affected joint(s).
If your impairment involves a weight-bearing joint (ankle, knee, hip), you will meet the Listing if you demonstrate a major dysfunction that results in an “inability to ambulate (walk) effectively.” For example, if you are unable to walk without the use of an assistive device that requires you to use both hands (e.g., a walker, two crutches, two canes), then you are unable to ambulate effectively; if you are unable to walk a block on rough or uneven surfaces at a reasonable pace, then you are unable to walk effectively. If your impairment involves an upper-extremity joint (shoulder, elbow, wrist-hand), then major dysfunction is shown by an inability to perform fine and gross movements effectively. If, for example, you are unable to prepare a simple meal and feed yourself; or sort and handle papers or files; or place files in a cabinet at or above waist-level, then you are unable to perform fine and gross movements effectively.
If your joint pain or damage does not rise to the level of a Listing impairment, then the North Carolina Social Security decision-maker will assess your “residual functional capacity” – your ability to work despite your impairment. Your testimony at your disability hearing will be a critical factor in this determination. If you are a credible witness, who is able to provide detailed examples of how your joint pain restricts your daily routine, this testimony will go a long way toward persuading the judge to award you benefits.
Whether your arthritis or other joint pain is severe enough for you to qualify for North Carolina Social Security disability benefits is a complex question that is heavily dependent on the specific facts of your situation. If you would like more information about joint pain and damage, read Applying for Disability Benefits When You Have Arthritis and Joint Damage. If you would like a knowledgeable North Carolina disability attorney to review your case, please contact us.