Facts about Bursitis and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1. Bursitis affects the bursae, the small pads of fluids that act as cushions for the bones, muscle and tendons around joints. When bursae become inflamed, it is called bursitis. Bursitis typically appears in the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.
2. Bursitis causes difficult and painful movement in the affected joint. Symptoms vary in severity, but include joint pain and stiffness. The pain can cause a burning sensation that radiates out to the areas surrounding the joint as well. Pain is often worse throughout the day due to activity and movement, and stiffness usually occurs when waking up in the morning. The area is often red, swollen and sensitive to the touch.
3. You should see a doctor for potential diagnosis of bursitis if you have disabling joint pain, pain that lasts for more than 2 weeks, or sharp, shooting pains when exercising. Swelling, redness, bruising or a rash in the affected joint area, as well as a fever, are also indicators that you should see a doctor.
4. Bursitis is typically caused by repetitive motions or irritating positions to the joints, such as frequent throwing and lifting, and prolonged kneeling or sitting. Sometimes bursae that are punctured then become infected, which is called septic bursitis and is most common in the knee and elbow joints where the bursae are close to the skin.
5. Risk factors for bursitis include age, certain occupations and hobbies, and other medical conditions such as arthritis and diabetes. Bursitis becomes more common among the middle aged. Those who do work such as flooring and gardening and play sports such as baseball, tennis and cycling are all more likely to develop bursitis due to the repetitive motions these activities require on the joints.
6. Treatment includes rest, ice, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medications. For septic bursitis, antibiotics are necessary.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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