Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic inflammatory condition that can cause swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints. The symptoms can vary from person to person and depend on the severity of the disease.

While medications and lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms, there’s no current cure. Left untreated, PsA can lead to severe flare-ups and result in long-term joint damage that can interfere with your quality of life and ability to complete everyday activities, including work.

If your symptoms are impacting your job performance, you might be able to receive disability benefits from the government or your employer. Here’s what you need to know about disability programs and how to qualify for insurance and benefits.

Depending on the severity of the disease, PsA can become a disability that affects your career. A 2016 study found that around 1 in 3 people diagnosed with PsA missed work in the last year because of their symptoms. A similar number of people said the condition impacted their ability to work a full-time job.

To gain control of PsA, work with a rheumatologist to develop a treatment plan for your condition.

It can also help to make some adjustments in the workplace, such as:

  • using a hands-free phone headset
  • putting arthritis-friendly grips on pens and pencils
  • keeping frequently used items within close reach
  • using an ergonomic setup for your desk and chair
  • taking frequent breaks to move your body

Up to 30 percent of people diagnosed with PsA say that the disease has impacted their ability to get and keep a job. If you find that you’re unable to work due to your condition, you may qualify for certain disability benefit programs.

The federal government runs two programs that provide benefits to people with disabilities:

  • Social Security. The disability insurance program through Social Security provides benefits to people with disabilities who worked long enough within a certain period of time. The exact requirements to qualify will depend on your age. The amount you receive is based on your lifetime average earnings.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program provides cash assistance to people with disabilities who have limited income and resources. An individual who qualifies for the program can receive up to $783 a month from the federal government. Some states also offer a supplemental amount to people who meet certain qualifications.

The medical requirements are typically the same for adults to qualify for Social Security or SSI. You will need to demonstrate that the disability makes you unable to sustain substantial gainful employment.

You can apply as soon as PsA makes it difficult or impossible to perform a job. While there’s no requirement for you to have a disability for a certain amount of time before you apply, you will need to show that PsA will prevent you from working for at least 12 months.

More information on qualifying for Social Security and SSI with a PsA disability can be found in the Immune System Disorders or the Musculoskeletal System section of the government’s Disability Evaluation Under Social Security guidelines.

Getting approved for disability benefits can be a lengthy and difficult process. It typically takes more than 3 months to receive a decision, but can take up to 2 years in some cases.

You can begin the process by filling out an online application, calling Social Security, or visiting your local Social Security office. You’ll need to submit a range of personal information, such as:

  • birthday and place of birth
  • marriage and/or divorce information, if any
  • names and birthdates of your children, if any
  • your work and salary history for this year and the two years prior
  • types of jobs you’ve held for the last 15 years
  • date the disability began to affect your ability to work
  • education
  • medical records, including medications you take and information on your doctors, tests, and treatments
  • bank account details

Review the Social Security Administration’s Checklist for Online Adult Disability Application for a full list of information you’ll need. You may be asked to submit documents to prove the claims on your application, such as W-2 forms, tax returns, birth certificate, and pay stubs.

You should also be prepared to submit medical evidence, like doctor’s reports and test results, as well as an Adult Disability Report. Work with your doctor to get the right documentation for the disability claim.

Many people who apply for disability benefits are denied at first. If that happens to you, you can start the appeals process to ask the Social Security Administration to review your case. You can work with a lawyer to help navigate this lengthy process.

Private insurance policies may also cover PsA-related disability claims. There are two types of disability insurance:

  • Short-term policies. This type of disability insurance typically offers benefits for a few months to a year, but some may provide payments for up to 2 years.
  • Long-term policies. These programs generally offer benefit payments for a few years, or until you no longer have a disability.

Many employers provide one or both of these disability insurance policies to their staff. Check with your human resources department to find out how to file a claim for PsA-related disability.

You can also buy your own private disability insurance policy. As you shop around, make sure you read the fine print and understand:

  • how the policy defines disability
  • when the benefits would begin after a claim is approved
  • how long benefits last
  • the amount you would receive from the policy

If you can’t work due to a PsA-related disability, you may be able to receive benefits from the government or a private insurance policy. Work with your doctor to get the paperwork started.

Getting approved for disability benefits can be a confusing, challenging, and time-consuming process. Seek additional guidance from doctor’s offices, social workers, counselors, attorneys, local hospitals, or support groups as you work through it.