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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.

Petition: Urge the Social Security Administration to Add Rheumatoid Arthritis to its Compassionate Allowance List

Here are some additional resources to learn more:

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Connie Sorrell
    5 years ago

    I had just seem this on Facebook and went to the link to sign the petition. However, it has been taken down for lack of signatures in the timeframe allotted. Are you going to sta Rt another petition?

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 years ago

    We actually didn’t start that petition, but we helped publicize it in an effort to support it.

  • Tamara Lowrimore
    5 years ago

    I am an RA patient and it has been one of the toughest journeys I have ever taken. With all the biological meds and chemo meds and pain meds and the list goes on and on. My body has went from bad to worst to bad again as nd then worst. Also I love with PTSD and severe depression. I can only take it one day at a time, because the last three weeks each day has been a major rollercoaster because I am now fighting a severe head and chest cold. That is totally torn me down.

  • Jane Burbach
    5 years ago

    Good article. And thanks for the clarification on types of social security disability.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for that clarification, Antonia!

  • Antonia Maritima
    5 years ago

    I think it is an excellent idea to have RA added to the CAL. While I am still able to work, I have reduced hours–half time, and my income/earning potential is much less than it used to be. I worry about how I will get by between the time when I am no longer able to work and the time when I begin to receive benefits.

    It is important to be aware that SSI is not the only type of disability benefit someone may qualify for. SSDI–Social Security Disability Income–is a benefit for someone who has met the criteria for having worked a certain number of quarters. The benefit for a person who qualifies for SSDI is based on the person’s income for the past few years.

    When a person applies for Social Security benefits, the person does not apply for a specific type of benefits. The SS Administration makes the determination about the type of benefits the person is qualified for.

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