With thousands of medical conditions in existence, it can be difficult to know if your specific condition qualifies you for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) . Many people who apply for disability benefits are unsure if their specific situation will meet the requirements—which is very understandable, as the criteria for Social Security disability can be confusing.
To make the process more straightforward, the Social Security Administration uses an impairment listing manual commonly known as the “Blue Book.” This book is designed to help disability examiners determine more quickly and efficiently if a person’s medical condition will automatically qualify them for disability benefits.
According to disabilitysecrets.com, the Blue Book discusses adult disability assessments and childhood disability assessments separately. Their “Social Security Disability List of Impairments” page states the following:
“The Blue Book is a list of impairments with detailed requirements for when the SSA should judge a medical condition to be disabling. The official name of this disability handbook is Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. This listing of impairments contains the most common medical conditions considered to be severe enough to keep an individual from working. If your impairment matches one of the requirements listed (called a “listing”), you will qualify for disability automatically, regardless of whether you can actually work or not.”
Disabilitysecrets.com goes on to describe how the Blue Book is simply the first step used in the evaluation process—it is not the only way to determine the awarding or denial of benefits:
“Because illnesses and injuries have varying degrees of severity, the Blue Book sets out the requirements for how severe the symptoms, clinical findings, and laboratory tests for a specific impairment have to be to make sure that the condition is severe enough for an automatic approval. If your condition doesn’t match a listing, the SSA goes through a longer determination process to see if you’re disabled, but if you can match a listing, the process stops there.”
Matching a Listing
According to ssa.gov, impairments are categorized in the following ways:
- Musculoskeletal System
- Special Senses and Speech
- Respiratory System
- Cardiovascular system
- Digestive System
- Genitourinary Impairments
- Hematological Disorders
- Skin Disorders
- Endocrine Disorders
- Congenital Disorders that Affect Multiple Body Systems
- Mental Disorders
- Malignant Neoplastic Diseases
- Immune System Disorders
All of the above-listed conditions, with the addition of Growth Impairment.
If your condition and symptoms fall under one of these categories and exactly match what is written in the Blue Book, you will be said to “match a listing.”
Qualifying With a Matched Listing
Since it would be impossible to list every medical condition and its corresponding symptoms in a handbook, there is some leeway. To determine if a listing is met, an individual does not always have to meet the exact criteria named for a particular condition. Disability examiners will use their best judgement, and are allowed to consider your illness the medical equivalent of the criteria in a listing or a related listing—a process known as “equaling a disability listing.”
Even if your condition is not listed and is not considered medically equal to a listed condition, don’t give up! If the SSA determines that your condition limits your functioning to the point where you can’t work, you can still be awarded benefits. Claimants who can show that their conditions are severe and well-documented stand the best chance at being granted benefits by the Social Security Administration.
It is also possible to equal a listing by having a combination of impairments that are not severe enough on their own to meet a specific listing—but, when combined, are severe enough to equal a listed impairment. These cases are more difficult to prove, however, and may require the assistance of an attorney.
Fighting for your benefits
The process of qualifying for Social Security Disability is not always straightforward, and determining if your condition meets the necessary requirements may take time and patience. At Summit Disability Law Group, we want to help you receive every possible benefit you qualify for. If you feel that your case would benefit from our legal representation, or if you simply wish to speak with one of our lawyers, please do not hesitate to contact us at 801.890.1030.