Arteritis: Can I Get Disability Benefits?

When arteritis limits your ability to function at work, you may be able to get Social Security disability benefits.

By , J.D. · Albany Law School
Updated by Elyse Futhey, J.D. · The Colleges of Law

Arteritis is an inflammation of your arteries, the vessels that transport blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Arthritis is a separate condition that causes inflammation in the joints. While both conditions can result in limitations that keep you from working full-time (and potentially qualify for disability benefits), they are distinct from each other and require different treatments for symptom management.

Symptoms and Types of Arteritis

Arteritis—a form of vasculitis—can be diagnosed through various tests, including blood work, MRI, and tissue biopsy. Giant cell arteritis and Takayasu's arteritis, the two kinds of arteritis, may result in varying symptoms and health complications.

Giant Cell Arteritis

Also called temporal arteritis, giant cell arteritis is diagnosed when the arteries that supply blood to your head are inflamed. This is the most common type of arteritis and generally affects people over 50, more often women. Symptoms may include:

  • persistent and severe head pain, usually in the temple area.
  • intense scalp tenderness
  • vision loss or double vision
  • fever
  • jaw pain when chewing or opening your mouth, and
  • unexplained weight loss.

Prompt treatment can often prevent permanent damage, but some complications (such as blindness, aneurysm, or stroke) may arise if the arteritis isn't caught early enough.

Takayasu's Arteritis

Takayasu's arteritis is a rarer form of arteritis that primarily damages the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. As the arteritis progresses, symptoms may include:

Significant complications can occur in severe cases of Takayasu's arteritis, including hardening and narrowing of the arteries, cardiovascular disorders (such as stroke, heart attack, or heart failure), aneurysm, and trouble breathing.

Qualifying for Arteritis Disability Benefits

If your arteritis symptoms are severe enough to affect your ability to work full-time, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or both. You can qualify for disability benefits either by meeting the requirements of a "listing" or by proving that your arteritis keeps you from doing any job.

Keep in mind that you must also meet the non-medical requirements for SSDI and SSI. SSDI requires you to have enough work credits to be eligible, while SSI has income and resource limits. Both programs require that your arteritis symptoms last at least one year.

Meeting the Listing for Arteritis

Social Security maintains a "Blue Book" that lists each medical impairment for which you can automatically qualify for disability benefits. In addition to showing that you have a "listed impairment," you must meet all the requirements of that impairment's listing. Listings typically require objective medical evidence—such as lab results or MRIs—of symptoms that result in significant functional limitations.

Social Security can evaluate arteritis in two ways under listing 14.03 for systemic vasculitis. The first method you can use to meet the listing is by providing evidence of the following:

  • your arteritis has affected multiple organs or body systems
  • one (or more) of the organs or body systems is affected at least "moderately severely," and
  • you display at least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs of systemic vasculitis.

For the purposes of this listing, "constitutional symptoms or signs" means severe fatigue, fever, "malaise" (a general ill feeling), or involuntary weight loss.

The second method of meeting listing 14.03 is with evidence of "repeated manifestations" of systemic vasculitis with at least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs, and "marked limitations" in one of the following functional areas:

  • activities of daily living (being able to take care of yourself and your home)
  • maintaining social functioning (making and keeping friends and other relationships), and
  • completing tasks in a timely manner due to problems with concentration, follow through, and speed.

It's not easy to tell if you might meet this listing. You might want to consider going over your medical records with your doctors and reviewing the requirements to see if they think you meet the listing. If so, ask your doctors to provide their opinions in writing for Social Security.

Proving Your Arteritis Makes You Unable to Work

If you don't meet a listing, you can qualify for benefits by showing that you can't do your past or any other jobs. To evaluate your abilities, Social Security will examine your medical records and ask you about your daily routine, then develop a residual functional capacity (RFC) for you. The limitations outlined in your RFC state the kinds of tasks you can and can't do in a work setting.

Your RFC will contain any restrictions, physical and mental, you have due to arteritis. For example, your RFC may state that you shouldn't lift any more than 20 pounds due to weakness and fatigue, or that you should avoid work around dangerous machinery due to dizziness and poor vision. Headaches and pain can interfere with your ability to focus on tasks or work with others. With enough restrictions, your RFC can keep you from doing even simple, sit-down jobs.

Social Security compares your RFC with the demands of your past jobs to see if you can do them now. If not, the agency will take into consideration your age, education, and skills when deciding whether other jobs exist that you can do. If no jobs exist nationally that you can perform with your RFC, Social Security will find that you're disabled and award you benefits

Filing for Disability Benefits for Arteritis

You can file your application for Social Security Benefits in several ways:

  • Go online at Social Security's website.
  • Call 800-772-1213, between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to speak with a representative. (People who are deaf or hard of hearing can call the TTY number at 800-325-0778.)
  • Go in person to your local Social Security office.

You don't need a lawyer at any part of the application process, but you'll improve your chances of winning with an experienced disability attorney helping you along.

Updated February 15, 2024

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