RA Petition to the White House: Will You Sign?
If you or someone you love has rheumatoid arthritis, you are aware of what a debilitating condition it can be. Unfortunately, because it is an “invisible disability” that is not readily recognizable, many people have no idea just how common, and how serious, RA is. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.5 million adults have RA in the US. Furthermore, the CDC found that arthritis (all forms combined) is the number one cause of disability in American adults.
Obviously there is a range of RA severity, and the disease can be diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe (and does not necessarily stay at the same level of severity over time). Some people’s RA is so severe that it renders them unable to make a living as they used to. In these cases, one option is to apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. Currently, individuals with RA do not receive any special consideration for these benefits. However, there is currently a petition that is designed to change that.
The petition is an effort to have the Social Security Administration add rheumatoid arthritis to its Compassionate Allowance List [CAL]. The purpose of the CAL is to expedite disability claims for people suffering from specific conditions. It is not a separate benefit than Supplemental Security Income [SSI], which is what people are referring to when they say someone is “on disability.” Rather, CAL is an expedited route to qualifying for SSI. Currently, there are over 200 various conditions on the CAL; however, RA is not among them. If rheumatoid arthritis could be added as a compassionate allowance condition, it would decrease the time applicants must wait for a determination to be made on their applications, a process which currently takes at least three-to-five months. A person cannot apply for SSI disability benefits unless their condition is already severe enough to prevent them from working, so those months waiting on applications to be reviewed are months without any income for most applicants. While SSI benefits are difficult to live on, amounting to only $733 per month in 2015, they can make the difference between scraping by or not being able to make ends meet. Each month that applicants go without benefits is a month closer to destitution.
I am fortunate that my own RA is at a level that enables me to continue working. However, I once had to take a three-month extended sick leave from work due to my RA. It was an incredibly depressing and vulnerable time for me, and I am so grateful it was temporary. Some of our RA community members are not so fortunate, and the debilitating effects of their disease never improve to the point where they are able to return to work. Please consider taking a moment to sign this petition to shorten the wait for benefits for those with debilitating RA.
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