While you may think a medical is serious and restricts your ability to work, your claim for Social Security disability benefits may still be denied. This is – in part – because the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a specific list of medical conditions that qualify as “disabilities” for the purposes of SSA determinations. These physical and mental impairments will generally make a claimant eligible for benefits, and they are listed in a manual called the “blue book.” The blue book lists criteria that must be met for each impairment.
The manual is regularly updated, and recent editions include a number of medical conditions, including the following physical conditions:
- COPD, asthma, emphysema, and other respiratory illnesses
- Cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and more neurological disorders
- Back injuries, scoliosis, and other musculoskeletal problems
- Seizure disorders, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurological disorders
- Genitourinary issues such as kidney disease or interstitial cystitis
- Coronary heart disease, heart failure, and other cardiovascular conditions
- Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, and immune system disorders
- Liver disease, IBD, Crohn’s disease, gout, hepatitis, ulcerative colitis, and other digestive tract issues
- Diabetes, neuropathy, and endocrine system disorders
- Hematological disorders and bone marrow failure disorders
- Speech or sensory problems, including hearing or vision loss
- Dermatitis and serious skin disorders
- Various diseases and syndromes, including Lyme disease, Marfan Syndrome, or Sjogren’s Syndrome
In addition to the above physical conditions, the blue book also contains a number of mental impairments, including psychiatric, psychological, and cognitive disorders. These disorders include:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Asperger’s and autism
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic attacks
- Alcohol and drug addictions
- Bipolar disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
As you can see, the blue book includes many types of medical conditions, as the SSA recognizes the limitations and impairments caused by such conditions. However, simply stating you have a qualifying condition is not enough to qualify for benefits. You should always have a thorough medical diagnosis that outlines the aspects and severity of your medical condition, and you must present this information in a persuasive manner as part of your claim.
Matching the Blue Book Criteria
For each condition, the manual lists criteria that applicants can match to be eligible for benefits. However, you do not always have to satisfy all of the exact requirements listed for a specific condition or illness to get awarded benefits. In many cases, the SSA examiner determines that, while a condition is not an exact match, it is medically equivalent to the requirements listed for the condition in the manual. This is referred to as “equaling a disability listing.” An experienced disability attorney can inform you whether you may have a good chance to equal a listing even if you do not exactly match a listing.
Some applicants also qualify for disability benefits despite not matching a listing if their condition causes certain degrees of impairments. Even if you do not meet the criteria, an examiner may decide that your condition limits your normal functioning to a degree that you can no longer work. The effects of your condition and its impairment of your capacity to perform certain tasks can work in your favor if you do not meet the requirements of a specific blue book listing.
Non-listed Medical Conditions
Some claimants end up qualifying for disability benefits without matching or equaling a listing at all. For example, the blue book does not include migraines, even though migraines can be debilitating for up to 72 hours at a time. People with chronic migraines often cannot work on a regular basis and, therefore, want to file a claim for disability benefits. If you have migraines that are well-documented and severe enough to affect your ability to work, your claim may be successful. The important consideration is whether you have a medically determinable impairment that reduces your ability to function enough that you can no longer do your job – or any job, for that matter.
Some impairments commonly listed on Social Security disability claims that may not match a blue book listing include fibromyalgia, celiac disease, degenerative disc disease, chronic regional pain syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
Consult with a Disability Attorney
Even if you believe your condition is not an automatic qualifier for disability benefits, it is always worth it to discuss a possible claim with an experienced Social Security lawyer. The right lawyer can review your medical condition and resulting impairments, as well as the medical evidence of your impairments, and can advise you whether you may want to try to obtain disability benefits.