Juvenile arthritis, which is often called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), is a general name given to describe several different types of childhood arthritis:
Although the various types of juvenile arthritis differ in their specific signs and symptoms, family history, and the number of joints affected, all juvenile arthritis is caused by an abnormal response by the immune system that causes the body to attack itself—namely the joints.
Children who meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA's) definition of disabled may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but not Social Security disability. However, childhood SSI benefits are dependent on parental income. This means that if you make too much money, or have too many assets, your child may not be eligible for benefits even if he or she meets the disability requirements. (You can learn more by reading our article on Social Security benefits for children. For information on getting benefits for those over 18, see our article on adult rheumatoid arthritis.)
Generally, the SSA requires that a child meet the following two criteria to be found disabled.
If your child meets these two basic requirements, he or she may be eligible for SSI benefits.
There are some medical conditions that the SSA has decided are serious enough to result in an automatic approval of benefits. These are called “listings.” One of the SSA's listings is for inflammatory arthritis.
Inflammatory arthritis includes all of the types of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis above. Here are the criteria that must be met to be awarded benefits automatically for JRA (as long as your child qualifies financially for SSI).
Your child’s medical records must show that he or she experiences all of the criteria under one of the following sets of symptoms:
Problems walking or using hands. The ongoing inflammation of or the persistent deformity of a major joint or joints that causes your child trouble walking or using his or her hands. Either one of the following conditions can fulfill this requirement:
Problems with organs or body-wide symptoms. Inflammation or deformity in at least one major peripheral joint (knee, shoulder, hip, elbow, hand-wrist, and ankle-foot) that causes fulfills both of the following criteria:
Problems with the spine. Ankylosing spondylitis or other spondyloarthropathies, with one of the following sets of symptoms: